Moon is an intelligent, superbly well written and paced film that carries bags of style and, despite the huge giveaway in the trailer, still packs some powerful moments and surprises, as well as a great performance from Sam Rockwell.
Before I say anything else I have to warn you, although it may already be too late. Don't watch the trailer. If you have, try and put it out of your mind, for there is a massive reveal in it, far too huge in fact. However if you have seen it, don't panic. I watched the film the day after a friend did, I had seen the trailer and understood the reveal, he had not, and we both came away with the same feelings for the film. Although seeing the trailer and realising one of the reveals didn't hurt the film, it did take a moment or two of enjoyment away for me.
With his three year stint almost complete he's counting the days down of his last few weeks before he heads back home to Earth and his replacement arrives. However there's something going wrong, and he starts seeing things and having lapses of concentration. Then, after a small accident, he discovers someone else on the base.
Duncan Jones has created an excellent film with a strong, intelligent script. What's fascinating about it is just how good he's made the effects look, and how he's managed to pull so much out of such a small and restrained film. With only two main actors, and one of them a voice, he's created an excellent thriller and shown that there's a lot of talent in this film-maker.
Moon is a small film that looks at some very big issues, issues and story lines that probably belong on a much bigger scale, or rather would be portrayed on a much bigger scale in the hands of another writer, director and budget. What Jones does is he approaches the story from a different angle, a much smaller and constrained one, and comes out with a thoroughly fantastic story.
Sam Rockwell is very good and gives a great performance, he too is restrained from some of his roles, although there are a few moments where he lets loose and we enjoy a few moments of amusement. For the most part though he's under a lot of pressure and struggling with the events around him, events that aren't totally explained to us but are revealed as they are to the character, and those that the character doesn't get to the bottom of? Well neither do we, and that's a rather refreshing approach.
So often in film we're shown too much, given much more than the character, and then we find that we're watching events happen to the character from the outside, not with them, and that means we can lose a lot of the connection with the main character. Not so here. We're along for the ride with him, and barring the trailer or understanding the events for yourself, you're right there with him. That adds a great level of power to any film I believe, and it does here.
That comes down to the superb writing and pacing, they've cleverly set the reveals to be minimal, and never of epic proportions, they are always on the terms of the main character, and therefore with the audience. They're about how they affect him and what they mean to his life. The way the connections are made by the characters, the character development itself, and the clever, and not expected, interaction with the computer system, are all wonderfully set out.
Then, of course, there's the ending. This could have left the audience wanting more, feeling cheated a little perhaps, and it could have been a big sign of the film's own limitations. However it isn't, and instead feels like a triumph, like a complete and closed ending of a very significant chapter, and there's no need to see the much larger scale impact of events.
Moon doesn't turn out the way I had expected, that's for sure, and I had been right in what immediately sprang to mind when I was watching the trailer some time ago. You know my Dad hated the fact that I would always pick up the Xmas presents before the day and manage to figure out what they roughly were, something I loved doing and got great enjoyment, unfortunately when I see a trailer I do the same and I can't stop it. However with Moon it didn't spoil the story, and there was so much more to the writing and the characters that I didn't mind it at all.
In fact here's a thought, I don't think that it is even treated as such a big reveal in the film, it certainly doesn't come across as a big Hollywood "ta-da" moment, again, another great aspect of the script.
Well I say that but I was unsure about the moments after that, and the acceptance of the event with the characters. It all seemed too easy, and in some ways you'll understand that after the fact, but others I'm not so sure. It's certainly kept me thinking of how the reactions would play out in real life, and that's why this review has been mulling through my head for some time.
Back on the casting side I found the choice of Kevin Spacey as Gerty, the AI computer system running the base, as inspired. His voice has a calming and yet slightly sinister quality to it at times. It's as though some of the sentances are loaded or guarded, and that's been used to great effect here, it just gives you an extra thing to make you think during the film.
The space station itself looks fantastic. It has a feel to it that seems like somewhere you've seen before. I was trying to figure this out and I think it's because it reminds me a little of the sort of Space 1999 look and feel, but very modernised. It's not that this looks dated at all, it looks spot on, but there's a feel that reminds me of seventies television and film space vehicles, something that helps you feel that it's dated within the context of the story but modern within our timeframe.
I have to point out again just how good the effects are, and I know that a couple of the outdoor shots give a faint whiff of models, but they are really well done throughout the film and with the addition of CGI it provides a strong and realistic backdrop for the sequences on the moon's surface and in space. To be honest it has a feel not unlike that of the outdoor sequences of Alien, you know they are using models but the scale and depth are right.
One other aspect I want to cover before I call the review to a close is the music. The score is really well orchestrated and helps to build the tension and hammer home some of the key moments. I really became aware of the effect it was having on me during some key scenes, but not because the score took me out of the film for me to notice it, but because it drew me in deeper to some of the scenes. Then there are a couple of surprisingly amusing musical choices that really will have you laughing away to yourself, as well as being rather poigniant on reflection.
Moon is an excellent film from the scripting to filming to scoring, it hardly puts a foot wrong and delivers great pacing and keeps the confines of the story perfectly controlled when it could have ballooned into something much bigger on a number of occassions, but it doesn't, and it's that restrained story and story telling that really helps Moon become such a great film.
Sam Rockwell's performance is a great addition, and he too manages to restrain his performance to great effect, and with Kevin Spacey's voicing the cast is spot on.
The indoor and outdoor (even without an atmosphere!) sequences are very well shot, and the film looks like it carried a huge budget, and coupled with the excellent script and concept, I think we have a lot to see from Duncan Jones, for on Moon he's done an excellent job.