Moon (2009): Looking up at Duncan Jones’ space tragedy thriller


Duncan Jones’ “Moon” is a look at man’s isolation, fragility and struggle for purpose. But does what happen on the moon stay on the moon?

Material Interests

As Moon begins, we immediately gain insights into what motivates our interest in the moon: Fuel. Faced with an oil crisis, people are now moon mining for Helium-3, an alternative fuel source. The main character, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) lives his job. His moon base, Sarang Station, has basically become his world. He has infrequent contact with earth, only receiving pre-recorded broadcasts from his wife. Other than himself, the only person Sam can to talk to is GERTY, a brainy robot with AI up the wazoo (voiced by the now notorious Kevin Spacey). In a way, then, Sam is left alone, almost stranded out there.

The question emerges: Is this level of isolation worth the compensation? Mind you, this question occurs even under ideal circumstances. Of course, if Sam had ideal circumstances, we probably wouldn’t have a movie, would we?

Duncan Jones’ Moon — Courtesy of Liberty Films UK

Hints of Mental Collapse Unveil a More Sinister Plot

Not long into Moon, Sam apparently begins descending into what Ren & Stimpy called “space madness.” He begins to interact with a literal alternate version of himself. The question is, does this make him crazy or is it really his clone? As he explores the situation further, he learns a lot more about himself, the “other” him, and the dark and tragic circumstances of the real him. It becomes a memorable tale of self-betrayal, with stellar acting from Mr. Rockwell. As his character(s) learn more about the world, it’s an emotional roller coaster, and you’ll wonder if he’ll survive the ride.

Moon & Blade Runner: Common Sci-Fi & Horror-like Themes

Body horror and poor Sam. (Moon)

Parts of Moon reminded me of Blade Runner, actually. Although Moon can stand alone, the premise of people being used/identified/created solely for their work runs heavily in both. The impression is of a very cynical human race, quick to discard or even kill those who are no longer considered useful. Of course, this point is basically dead on accurate: If you don’t make enough money in this world (the “real world”), you may end up rotting in a gutter somewhere. In this setup, people are very quick to sell each other out, fight or simply ignore one another. Hardship, alienation and betrayal lurk just around the corner.

Blade Runner and Moon are among the finest movies of any genre (let alone sci-fi) for exposing such aspects of how the world “works.” I don’t know if I’d call either film “jaw dropping” in the conventional sense, as I don’t know if the plots really blew my mind. I would say they cleverly tied together things I already suspected to be true — both in their internal stories and what they observe about us. Who knows? Maybe some of us had our jaws pre-dropped in life, and we need certain stories to get us closer to normalcy.

To make Moon even more plausible, it should be noted that Helium-3 actually exists, and people speculate about its validity as a reliable alternate fuel source.  Given that cloning is another real possibility, it makes this movie more chillingly real.

Final Thoughts: As the “Moon” Turns

Moon offers plenty of dramatic tension and occasional pockets of humor, to let audiences breathe a little. Although it’s a heavy movie, a few genuine laughs can be had. It’s a decent story premise that, honestly, could have stood out even without top-notch acting. It definitely helped that Sam Rockwell totally rocked well in the role (sorry, but it had to be written!). This combination is what made Moon an Oscar-worthy picture, regardless of it being snubbed.

Next: The Haunting: Mystery in a Haunted Mansion

So, what are your thoughts? Did Moon give you a sense of wonder or did it leave you staring emptily into space? Tell us in the comments!