I love Netflix Watch Instantly. Love. It. Hundreds of recent and classic films streaming across my Wii and iPad? Yes, please.
I’ve been able to catch up on a bunch of movies I missed at the theater, the latest being the 2009 British sci-fi story Moon. Like the previously-reviewed Monsters, Moon was praised for being thoughtful rather than flash-bangy. Unlike Monsters, I think that acclaim was largely deserved.
Moon is highly reminiscent of late ’60s/early ’70s theatrical sci-fi. Many have brought up the obvious parallel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, notably the relationship between Sam Rockwell’s lone lunar miner and the one-eyed computer GERTY, whose flat-toned voice is provided by Kevin Spacey. I think it’s closer to Silent Running or Dark Star with their stir-crazy, working-class astronauts, plus a bit of hallucinatory weirdness courtesy of Solaris.
Nearing the end of a three-year tour of duty as the sole inhabitant of a mostly-automated Helium-3 mining facility on the dark side of the moon, Sam Rockwell’s character (also named Sam) is almost completely cut off from human contact thanks to a perpetually-malfunctioning satellite uplink. He’s unable to interact in real-time with his wife and infant daughter, depending instead on delayed messages relayed from Jupiter.
With only three weeks to go, Sam begins to have visions of a teenaged girl, and then of himself. After a moon buggy accident, he wakes up in the infirmary with a loss of memory. Convincing the evasive GERTY to allow him outside the mining base, he investigates the crippled buggy and finds a second Sam trapped inside. Is he crazy, or is he a clone?
Overall, I thought Moon succeeded, though even at 97 minutes it ran out of material in the final half hour. I began to anticipate a further twist (see the spoiler section below) that never happened. And the physical deterioration of the second Sam–or is he the first Sam?–began to make my skin crawl after a time.
Highlights include Rockwell’s pair of effectively odd performances, as well as the visual elements of the moon base. GERTY–a computer tethered to a ceiling-mounted arm–is a clever design, conveying emotion through a changing smiley-face graphic display. And as far as I can tell, the effects appear to be old-school miniatures rather than CGI, giving the locations that extra bit of realism.
SPOILERS FROM HERE OUT – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
The two Sams are indeed clones. After the real Sam’s initial tour of duty, his employer decided that rather than going through the expense of training and transporting new miners, it would be cheaper to create a bunch of copies installed with the original’s memories and kept on ice in a secret chamber beneath the base. There are dozens, if not hundreds of Sams stored away, which in itself seems like a waste of money. At three years (more or less, depending upon accidents) per Sam, how many clones can they go through before the remainder pass their sell-by date?
One of the Sams gets outside the jamming array which prevents real-time communication and contacts his now-teenaged daughter. In the background we can hear her father, presumably the still-living original Sam. It struck me that Sam Prime must have been a colossal tool to participate in a project that would result in hundreds of copies of himself living alone with their false memories and ultimately being tricked into disintegrating themselves.
As I hinted, the business with the clones was given up early enough that I was waiting for a further twist. When the Sams went out in their respective buggies searching for the jamming towers, I fully expected them to find more mining bases manned by further Sams.