The years stretching out from the fifties to the current day are arguably a period were mankind has undergone more technological and societal changes than any since we first started lighting fires to cook our meals and hold the darkness at bay. More of the events that heavily contributed to this unprecedented rapidity of change were the animosity between the two global super powers; The United States and the Soviet Union. Although many of the contributions of this multi decade era of animosity was detrimental to us seeding distrust of your neighbors and a competition to building weapons capable of destroying out very planet, some good can be found stemming from the Cold War; the exploration of space. Without the political concerns of Americans looking up at a Communist controlled moon the amount of ingenuity, new technologies, bravery and funding would not have been brought together with such great urgency. Many of the films that came out of this period of unrest were allegorically linked to these animosities but eventually distrust yielded to an initially uneasy cooperation. Now the exploration and commercial utilization of outer space can serve a new purpose in entertainment; the foundation to explore the psychological reaction a man might exhibit when exposed to unnatural stressors. The 2009 film simply titled, ‘Moon’ by British filmmaker Duncan Jones is an amazing example of this growing trend. One recent event that brought this to mind was number of Academy Awards the astronaut oriented film, ‘Gravity’ took home. This was on the heel of a less acclaimed movie albeit one that resonated with a distinctively different spark, ‘Last Days on Mars’. These films are part of a new trend in how the men and women that works beyond the comfort of our home world. ‘Moon’ is an ideal example of an off world setting that approaches a McGuffin, a plot point crucial within the context of the story but incidental to the audience.
The year is 2035 and the commercial use of near earth orbit has expanded its scope to our closest neighbor, the moon, Lunar Industries has become one of the wealthiest and most influential corporate entities by discovering a means to circumvent the world’s dependency of oil as an energy source. Utilizing a rare isotope of Helium, Helium- 3, it was now feasible to produce energy at competitive costs without having to deal with the international quagmire traditionally associated with oil producing countries. Thanks to this breakthrough the corporation is now responsible for 70% of the global energy. To exploit the need Lunar Industries constructed a huge base on the moon to mine the valuable commodity, Sarang. It was a marvel of advanced technology utilizing cutting edge implementation of robotic. The automated factories commonly used back on earth were toys compared to the sophistication Sarang. Only a single human operator was necessary to keep the mine operational and his function was primarily to deal with the odd unforeseen circumstances. The one Lunar Industries employee talking the shift is Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). In return for three years in isolation at the facility is only concern is to ensure the precious Helium-3 continues to flow to a dependent planet. He supervises the automated harvesters, launching the canisters back to the company on earth.in return Sam’s family is paid an exceptional amount of money affording them a better standard of life than most. With his three year commitment finally coming to an end Sam was anxious to return to home and his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and daughter. Tess was pregnant when Sam left for shift and has never met his only child, Eva.
Sam’s mission has been more arduous than he signed on for. Ongoing failures in the communications equipment resulted in a loss of his live data feed with earth leaving Sam with intermittent recorded messages. His only companion, of sorts, is the artificial intelligence that provides his interface with the automated systems, GERTY. Physically GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) is a sophisticated computer housed in a cylindrical shell. On it is a small screen that displays emoticons to signify its mood. I find them annoying under the best of situations but under the circumstances Sam has to endure it would be tantamount to perdition incarnate. With only a couple of weeks remaining the psychological pressures take their toll; Sam begins to have hallucinations of a teenage girl. As Sam’s grip on lucidity diminishes he considers ways to check things out.
The hallucinations sufficiently distract Sam causing him to crash his rover. Losing air rapidly he does manage to put on his helmet before losing consciousness. When Sam awakens in the infirmary he appears to be younger. He over hears command instructing GERTY to restrict Sam until the relief craft, Eliza, arrives. He is not to be permitted to leave the base. He contrives a reason to circumvent the order to return to the site of the crashed rover. There he finds an injured, older version of himself. Younger Sam brings older Sam back to the habitat with the obvious question hanging between them; which one is the clone. It turns out that both are clones; GERTY activated the new Sam implanting him with his memories. GERTY informs the new Sam he has just started his three year tour. The confusion greatly mounts when he manages to call earth discovering Tess died some time ago and Eva is a teenager. The company has been recloning the original Sam to save on the expense of salary, training and transport. After three year life span the clone is destroyed a replaced.
There are numerous levels present in this story that are utterly fascinating that thematically this film is a tapestry woven from a myriad of socially relevant issues. One of the most obvious is the extent that a corporation will go to ensure a profitable bottom line. In the time when the industrial revolution was a nascent force in our society a mill would give little thought and have fewer reservations about using small children to clean out tight spaces between dangerously active machines. Creating and murdering clones to save on employee expenses is extremely more advanced technologically but present much of the same murky moral dilemmas. What has remained lamentable independent of the technological level; profits trump humanity. This moves into such modern issues of whether you can even be guilty of murdering as clone with debate over whether they possess or deserve human rights. The more intense sociological exploration is a subject that has kept philosophers and theologians in heated debates for millennia; the nature of individuality, the source of the self. Sam is forced to face the ultimate manifestation of the identity crisis. While it is fairly common for a person, particularly on the cusp between defined stages of life to question who they are and where they are headed. For Sam this is taken to an unimaginable level when you are forced to realize that not only are not do you discover you are not who you think you are but you are little more than a replacement part with no more intrinsic value than one pair of worn out shoes with a new pair. This is fundamentally a one man show with Sam Rockwell giving an amazing performance made more noteworthy by a resume demonstrating his talent as an eclectic journeyman actor. Punctuating the intensity of the film is the performance of Kevin Spacey as the voice of the computer. Not only he a leading man of exceptional standing but he is one of the best vocal impressionists around. It was this f=deep understanding of the texture, cadence and timbre of a voice that gives his work here amazing.
Commentary With Writer/Director Duncan Jones And Producer Stuart Fenegan