Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sam I Am

Moon (2009)Directed By Duncan Jones
Moon is very solid science fiction film. It is the story of a man named Sam played by Sam Rockwell, who runs a lone lunar mining station at a 3 year stretch in which he will have no human contact.His only companion is an artificially intelligent and helpful on ship computer/robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. Sam is due to go home in a week, and one day when out collecting the new Green alternative fuel source his company extracts from the moon rocks, his vehicle crashes and he blacks out. He wakes up on a table, and he is told he had an accident by the robot, but was brought inside, just in time. Sam continues his exercises and hobbies as usual, but becomes suspicious when he overhears the robot talking to someone from Earth about an “accident” and a “death”.He goes out to investigate, against the robot’s wishes, and discovers a vehicle identical to his own wrecked. Sam finds an unconscious man inside the vehicle, who he assumes is one of the Moon's few other employees gone stray. Once inside the lunar station it is clear that both he and the man he pulled from the wreckage are identical. They are both convinced they are the same person, and this is where Moon really begins.The question of who is a clone is dispensed with earlier on, as is the question of “why use clones?”, and the film rest of the film deals with the dramatic fallout of suddenly experiencing a loss of identity. Sam Rockwell has to literally wrestle with himself as his character wrestles with who he now is, in an apathetic and artificial universe. Though at first antagonistic, the Sam’s come to support each other, bound by a shared anger, desire for truth, and some measure of human dignity. The film makes the Moon into a place of loneliness and estrangement from “The World”, which is only a memory if it was ever one at all. Duncan Jones' debut film is a well made movie, with a single extended performance, set in an atmospheric and unique location. It’s not as intelligent as Tarkovsky's “Solaris” which it could be easily compared to, but it’s a single hard science fiction idea well expanded and competently performed. Jones says he was inspired by the "70’s thinking person's science fiction", like “Soylent Green”, and “Silent Running”. Jones also said he wanted to get away from the "stainless I-pod chic" of sci fi like Steven Soderberg's "Solaris", and indeed Jone's future is a dustier and grimier one. Ultimately the first time director succeeds at creating a modern space-age film, where Danny Boyle’s recent trip to the Sun “Sunshine” failed to emotionally launch. In “Moon” we actually care about the Sam’s. Their lives however real they may be are made tangible for the minutes on screen, and no third act action scenes are needed to make the film cathartic. It plays out just as it should. Its elegiac tone is stronger and more clearly articulated than it’s lamentations about the exploitations which await the workers of the future, a theme which has risen again since the Recession, in recent sci-fi like “Eden Log” and “Sleep Dealer”. I even heard a Fox News' Neil Cavuto arguing how films like “District 9” continue to lazily resort to all purpose corporate villainy and bad big business cliche’s. He went on to add Batman doesn’t count because he’s “too moody” nor does Iron Man who “turns against his stock holders, and his own company in the end.” Though easy to pick on, Cavuto was right to pick up on the populist disenchantment in these movies, and how homogenized it’s become.
Moon makes its points more eloquently and with more genuine human emotion than most, and though this aspect of the movie was a minor let down, in the end it was more genre window dressing for the story about a man whose job causes him to have an emotional melt down and crisis of self. I could easily imagine a graying man or woman, feeling the mid-life panic, saying to his/her bathroom mirror, “What have I done with my life. Nothing. Who am I? Not the person I see in my memories. How do I go back to where I was? I can’t…” and it would be roughly what we see in Moon and the interactions of the Sams. In the end the old self dies off so that the new one may live on, while the man in the moon remains ageless.

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