Moon released last year and somewhat went unnoticed. An independent venture directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie, as I just learned!), Moon premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival along with the likes of In the Loop and (500) Days of Summer.
Lunar Industries contracts employees on the Moon to oversee the Helium-3 extraction on lunar soil. The operation has solved Earth’s energy crisis with harvesters running all over the Moon with just one crew member supervising everything in what appears to be a completely automatic base. Sam Bell(brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell) is the currently contracted employee whose 3 year stint is coming to an end in two weeks and he is looking forward to meeting his wife and daughter back home. And then he crashes his moon car(or whatever it is called) and has an unexpected encounter. The best part is that it’s not what you are thinking.
Moon has a beautiful arc that it follows accurately right from that encounter. It’s so natural that the science fiction part of the whole thing recedes to the background and a deeply human psyche element takes over. You don’t realize this while watching because there is enough jingbang machinery(but there is also a BASIC infinite loop code in one of them – 20 GOTO 10; 10 GOTO 20) around you. But you are sucked into it thanks to the performance of Sam Rockwell, who brings out that human drama so much alive that it’s extremely hard to believe that there isn’t another character in the setting (not counting Sam’s wife and daughter in some of his hallucinations). Moon lays out the con of man in the open in ways that Avatar never did. And never could have. The theme hits you when Sam replies to GERTY, “We are not programmed, GERTY. We are people.” It says so much without even trying and that’s why it’s a great movie. That’s why it’s a movie you must watch.
Moon also has the instant acceptance factor for cinema lovers thanks to its obvious inspirations from one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever – 2001: A Space Odyssey. Quite evidently, GERTY was derived from HAL. The eye and the way it speaks. Some long shots of the far side of the moon and the view of the Earth as seen from there. The use of lilting classical music and leitmotifs for scenes in space. Duncan Jones is clearly one of the biggest fans. Moon is critically acclaimed and all that but hasn’t yet got the reach. It’s a fact that 2001 too was globally regarded as trash at the time of its release and it only attained immortality and greatness with time. It would be great if Moon achieves even half it’s cult status.
A lot need to be said about GERTY. It has all it takes to be the next HAL but will not even come a close second because of the reception this movie has got. GERTY also has an eye, only that it’s blue in color and not reddish orange. The use of smileys to depict GERTY’s mood is a brilliant modern day idea. Some of the most popular smileys are used in the most appropriate of situations and it does a lot in terms of showing GERTY’s interpretations. Also there isn’t anything evil about GERTY in that sense of the word. In fact, there is an inherent goodness about it.
The music of Clint Mansell largely aids the proceedings. The denouement sequence can be watched again and again and again just for the way it is developed visually and musically. One of the best background scores I’ve heard in a long while.
But dude, whoever thought of Kevin Spacey to be the voice of GERTY. Take a bow. Masterstroke!