One of the adjectives applied to Duncan Jones' inaugural motion picture Moon is "surprising". Not only for its central storyline, but also because it is an increasingly rare creature these days: a genuine science-fiction movie. Not an action movie, a Western, or a horror movie that just happens to take place in space - this is science fiction, and as such, is a wondrous thing to behold.
Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an employee of Lunar Industries. His job: oversee the automated mining of the Moon's surface for Helium-3, the fuel for efficient fusion power. His only companion: a HAL-9000-esque computer named GERTY (Kevin Spacey). His contract: three years.
As the movie begins, Sam is getting short: two weeks until his contract is up, and he goes home. The timing couldn't be better; the strain is showing, especially since a solar flare knocked out communications and Sam can only recieve taped messages. No two-way communications with his wife, his daughter, even his superiors. Sam is talking to himself - a lot - and even beginning to hallucinate. This culminates in his accidentally ramming his Moon buggy into one of the enormous Helium-3 harvesters, injuring himself seriously in the worst possible place: thousands of miles from any help.
So when Sam wakes in the infirmary, none the worse for wear, things start to look a little suspicious. When he manages to trick GERTY into allowing him to leave the base, his return to the scene of the accident only makes things worse: there is still a body inside the buggy. It's him. And the other him is still alive.
Moon truly takes off from there. It's serious, character-driven drama, 98% per cent Sam Rockwell, turning in a performance that was criminally neglected in the 2010 Oscar nominations. Director Duncan Jones - whom I was dumbfounded to discover is rocker David Bowie's son, aka Zowie Bowie - wears his movie influences not only nakedly, but proudly - "My movie was influenced by the movies that were influenced by 2001." Tastes of Silent Running, Outland and Alien are all there, with a dash of Solaris, and not in the way a talentless hack would appropriate them. Jones and his team took what worked from those movies, understood why they worked, and turned them to their own purposes.
Clint Mansell continues to impress with a score that, even in its "big" moments, remains haunting and melancholy. Exterior moon shots were created old school, with miniatures and some CGI to expand the edges of the landscape. The budget for Moon is given as a mere $5 million, and we can safely assume that every penny of that is on the screen.
In all, an amazing debut for Duncan Jones, a fine showcase for Sam Rockwell, and a godsend for the science fiction fan pining for something more cerebral than rocket ships and zap guns.
The menus carry over the white-washed future aesthetics of the production design, providing moving windows that play video under the menu choices. No spoilers here, the choices only become significant after viewing the movie.
There are two audio commentary tracks: The first, with Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery and Production Designer Tony Noble, is downright chaotic, with all talking simultaneously on more than one occasion, and genuine information often being buried by good-natured mockery. The second track, with Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan, is more sedate.
Next is Whistle, Jones' short film about a high-tech assassin attempting to deal with his guilt over a hit gone terribly wrong. Then the more typical making-of docs, The Making of Moon and Creating the Effects. These are followed by two Q and A Sessions with Jones, one at a pre-release screening at Houston's Space Center (with an obviously nervous, then greatly relieved director) and the Sundance Film Festival.
The theatrical trailer is included, and its possible to relive those previews from the beginning of the disc, as well as those for Blood: The Last Vampire, Zombieland, By The People: The Election of Barack Obama, Hardwired, It Might Get Loud, The Damned United, Dark Country, and an ad pimping Blu-Ray.
A very packed disc for an unjustly ignored film. Well, not ignored by critics, or festivals like SXSW, Sundance, and Tribeca. But hey - what do they know?
Dr. Freex, 2/7/2010