It’s difficult to describe what makes Moon a good film without giving away the twist that occurs about a third of the way through and takes the narrative off into a completely unexpected place – suffice to say that this is a film that does so and then doesn’t squander the chances it has created but uses them to explore a whole different question than the one you thought it would originally. As such I’ve concentrated this into two sections – the latter of which has numerous spoilers.
The debut film of Duncan Jones (or Zowie Bowie as he was once) is remarkably assured not only in its plotting but also its aesthetic choices (equipment is solidly built rather than lightweight, giving the film a somewhat old-fashioned appearance. This is further enhanced by the decision to use models for many of the effects rather than digital, furthering the sense of realism and a lived-in appearance rather than the clean, floating appearance that digital effects often give.
Old fashioned is a term that serves this film well, bringing to mind older, more glacially paced films such as Silent Running & Solaris. Moon is more interested in ideas rather than spectacle (although it contains plenty of the latter) and presenting a credible version of the future rather than wild fancy which is more the norm with modern Sci-fi. Special mention must be given to Sam Rockwell who as the sole actor for much of the film manages to carry off what is a difficult concept and Clint Mansell for the score, which once again is beautiful in its simplicity.
And so on to the spoilers.
More than anything, Moon is about the question of identity – more importantly do you become who you are or are you pre-programmed to be a specific way? Both versions of Sam share a similar personality, but the older version is more worldly wise (although he doesn’t grasp the nature of the situation as quickly as the new version. Both share a common decency (and it is hinted that the man responsible for their plight – possibly the original version of Sam – as well, maybe he is only willing for this fate to be fostered upon himself?) that in the end produces their response – neither wishes this madness to continue.
Likewise the film raises some awkward questions regarding the nature of corporate ethics in a future where cloning is possible. Sure, these questions have been asked before (see Bladerunner for details), but rarely with such thought and consideration – maybe this is the only way that something like this could be done?
Moon has much to recommend it, but unfortunately is on an extremely limited release (usual small scale cinemas folks). Hopefully DVD will bring it to a larger audience that can appreciate it.