Sunday, October 4, 2009

MOON review

“Moon” Is A Head Trip From Outer Space

There are lots more questions than answers in the science fiction philosophy of “Moon,” now playing at the Loft Cinema. But the questions are really good ones, especially if you enjoy the more thoughtful aspects of how life in outer space can mess with your mind.

“Moon” is opening in Tucson exactly 40 years after Neil Armstrong became the first man to step onto the moon. The fact that nothing much has happened in moon travel since then is as astonishing as anything in this movie. In another 40 years it will be 2050, will we still be shuffling around down here in Nike sport shoes wondering if at least the dark side of the moon might be made of green cheese? Or maybe wishing there was a monument up there to honor Pink Floyd.

Filmmaker Duncan Jones takes us to the dark side of the moon, where Sam Rockwell delivers a tour de force solo performance. Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut working in the private sector. His job is to man this lonely lunar outpost, sending containers of Helium 3 back to Earth, where his greedy employer turns the helium into clean safe energy that powers the planet.

We know Sam’s employer is greedy because Sam is never thanked for fulfilling his duties faithfully at this sleek space station with its authentic looking building where the Helium 3 is drawn from the moon’s innards. Although it isn’t part of the plot, we figure Helium 3 is a non-renewable resource. The moon will be sucked dry of Helium 3, the moon infrastructure will collapse because the helium is gone and…but that’s another story.

What Jones wants to explore is the nature of reality with some consideration of the role time will play in an environment with no day and night. On Earth, where Sam’s bosses give orders via sort of a web cam set-up, there is day and night.

The commercial astronaut’s three-year assignment in total isolation is almost over, but so far no replacement is on its way from Earth to bring Sam home. His wife goes on line now and then to say how much she misses him.

But the lack of interest in getting Sam off the dark side of the moon is making him nervous. After almost three years of isolation, he’s starting to see women who aren’t his wife lounging around the space pad.

An accommodating robot nicknamed Gerty (voiced in oily insincerity by Kevin Spacey) keeps Sam company and maintains the station’s operation. Just like HAL in “2001,” Gerty starts acting a little feisty. After a minor accident Gerty locks Sam in his room for his own good.

When Sam is released, so to speak, there is a younger more vibrant version of Sam at the controls of the space station. Gerty calls both the young and old versions of Sam as “Sam.” This is especially annoying to the old Sam, who fears for his sanity.

The drama of who’s really in control bounces back and forth with Gerty smoothly adjusting to accommodate whomever seems to have the upper hand at the moment. This is when all those wonderful questions start popping up. Is the repetition of routine a sign of stability or a lack of imagination?

What if being spontaneous is considered to be inappropriate behavior? What if your wife turned out to be an imposter on the government payroll? What if we died when we went out of style and became obsolete? Just how much of an illusion is life, anyway?

What if we can never escape time. In Heaven there is no time. But where if there is no Heaven? Does that make time the ultimate mockery? So, is time circular or does it travel in a straight line from the past to the future? If time is circular, there is no progress.

If realty is just an illusion, something we create just to feel more stable, what does that that make truth? Can we have truth without reality?

If any of these questions seem silly, “Moon” is not the movie for you. There are no shoot outs beyond the range of gravity. No explosions of galactic magnitude. There is just one guy with one brain and few additional resources trying to make sense of his situation before it’s too late.


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