Imagine an alternate present where the space shuttle hadn’t been such a disaster and the Cold War hadn’t been sole the driver for the space program. Where the dreams of the sixties came true, and the fears of the seventies were never realised. Where the whole Earth is powered by clean energy and humanity has a presence that extends at least as far as Jupiter.
This is the utopian world of Moon and the story of the dark secret that makes it all possible.
Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an engineer on a small lunar base overseeing the mining production of Helium-3, the new clean energy the Earth now runs on. He’s coming up to the end of his three year contract and is beyond ready to go back home and see his wife and kids. His job mostly seems to involve supervising the operations of big, hulking mining drones that eat moon dirt, collecting their payload when they’re full.
His sole companion is a robot, GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), whose only goal is to keep Sam safe. He cuts Sam’s hair, monitors his psychological state and is the intermediary with the headquarters on Earth.
Occasionally Sam receives video messages from his wife, but for some mysterious reason direct comms with Earth are broken.
This is the set-up for the film, quickly established. What happens next is a fascinating exploration of memory and identity. A Philip K Dick level science-fiction story; corporations with questionable morality.. a man that might not be what he thinks he is, and the robot that might be his only ally (OR his most dreaded enemy.. they play up the 2001 references wonderfully).
All this in a setting that looks retro, which really reinforces the alternate-present that this could be. The lunar base is not some all-white, shiny future thing; it looks assembled out of 1970s pre-fab materials, as if after SkyLab America did keep pushing onwards, and matter-of-factly established a permanent presence on the Moon, which corporations simply took over. It’s all just business up here in space.
Mining is a dirty business, and Sam’s EVA suit looks well worn and grimy. When he journeys out in his lunar rover, with it folded down, oh my, I’ve never wanted a white flight cap so much. Give me this lunar grunge chic, I need it now!
If there was any doubt about Sam Rockwell, that’s put aside here. He is AMAZING, especially when [redacted spoiler]. He carries the whole film with ease.
Now, I never saw that Fed-Ex movie with Tom Hanks, Cast Away, but I doubt it compares to this. And robots are way cooler than volleyballs anyway, especially when they incorporate an emoticon screen; when it cried, I teared up too. GERTY is the best robot on screen since Wall-E.
Duncan Jones has made a stunning debut. I hope he is left alone to make something equally brilliant in his next piece.