Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Duncan Jones|
|Music by||Clint Mansell|
|Editing by||Nicolas Gaster|
|Studio||Stage 6 Films|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Moon is a 2009 British science fiction drama film directed by Duncan Jones. The film is about Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Earth's moon. It was the feature debut of director Duncan Jones, son of the British rock musician David Bowie. Kevin Spacey voices Sam's robot companion, GERTY. Moon premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was released in select cinemas in New York and Los Angeles on 12 June 2009. The release was expanded to additional theatres in the United States and Toronto on both 3 and 10 July and to the United Kingdom on 17 July.
Sam Bell nears the end of a three-year work contract as the sole resident at Lunar Industries' largely automated lunar mining base "Sarang" (Hangul: 사랑 "love"). Sam oversees automated harvesters and launches canisters bound for Earth containing the helium-3 they have extracted. Chronic communication problems limit him to occasional recorded messages to his wife Tess, who was pregnant with their daughter Eve when he left. His only companion is an artificial intelligence named GERTY, who assists with the base's automation.
Two weeks before he is to return to Earth, Sam suffers from hallucinations of a teenage girl. One such image distracts him while he is out recovering a helium-3 canister from a harvester, causing him to crash his rover into the harvester. Rapidly losing air, Sam puts on his helmet, but loses consciousness.
Sam awakes in the base infirmary with no memory of the accident. He overhears GERTY receiving instructions from Lunar Industries not to let him outside the base and to wait for the arrival of rescue team "Eliza". His suspicions aroused, he manufactures a fake problem to force GERTY to let him outside. He travels to the crashed rover, where he finds an older Sam Bell, unconscious.
He brings Old Sam back to the base and tends to his injuries. The two Sams start to wonder if one is a clone of the other. After a heated argument and physical altercation, they together coerce GERTY into revealing that they are both clones of the original Sam Bell, who has long since returned to Earth. GERTY activated New Sam after the rover crash and implanted the memories of the original Sam Bell.
The two Sams begin searching the base, finding live communications jammed by transmitters located beyond the outermost perimeter of the base. They also discover that four previous clones all started to physically deteriorate three years after awakening. Told they would hibernate briefly for the journey home, they were actually incinerated after being put to sleep.
The two newest clones also find many more unconscious doubles in a secret hidden vault below the main level. Old Sam drives past the interference radius in a second rover and calls Tess on Earth. However, he gets Eve, now 15 years old, who says Tess died "some years ago". He hangs up before her father, original Sam, comes to the screen.
The two Sams realize that the incoming Eliza "rescue" team will kill them both if they are found together. New Sam suggests sending the other to Earth in one of the helium-3 transports, but Old Sam, already badly deteriorated, knows that he will not live much longer. He suggests New Sam leave instead, and alert the public to Lunar Industries' unethical practices. Old Sam plans to die by the crashed rover so Lunar Industries will not suspect anything until it is too late.
New Sam orders GERTY to revive a seventh clone to greet the rescuers, then programs a harvester to crash and wreck a jamming antenna, thereby enabling live communications with Earth. New Sam then reboots GERTY, erasing his memory records of the event. Old Sam, back in the crippled rover, remains conscious long enough to watch the launch of the ship carrying New Sam to Earth.
As the credits roll, the helium transport is depicted entering Earth's upper atmosphere, while news reports a clone's testimony on Lunar Industries' activities has stirred up considerable controversy.
- Sam Rockwell as Old Sam Bell
- Robin Chalk as New Sam Bell clone
- Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY
- Dominique McElligott as wife Tess Bell
- Kaya Scodelario as daughter Eve Bell
- Benedict Wong as Lunar Industries' Thompson
- Matt Berry as Lunar Industries' Overmeyers
- Malcolm Stewart as 'the technician'
This is the first feature film directed by commercial director Duncan Jones, who co-wrote the script with Nathan Parker. The film was specifically written as a vehicle for actor Sam Rockwell. The film pays homage to the films of Jones' youth, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), THX 1138 (1971), Silent Running (1972), Solaris (1972), Dark Star (1974), Alien (1979), and Outland (1981).
Jones described the intent: "[We] wanted to create something which felt comfortable within that canon of those science fiction films from the sort of late seventies to early eighties." The director spoke of his interest in the lunar setting: "for me, the Moon has this weird mythic nature to it.... There is still a mystery to it. As a location, it bridges the gap between science-fiction and science fact. We (humankind) have been there. It is something so close and so plausible and yet at the same time, we really don't know that much about it."
The director described the lack of romance in the Moon as a location, citing images from the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE: "It's the desolation and emptiness of it.... it looks like some strange ball of clay in blackness.... Look at photos and you'll think that they're monochrome. In fact, they're not. There simply are no primary colours." Jones made reference to the photography book Full Moon by Michael Light in designing the look of the film.
Moon's budget was $5 million. The director took steps to minimise production costs, such as keeping the cast small and filming in a studio. Moon was produced at Shepperton Studios, in London, where it was filmed in 33 days. Jones preferred using models to digital animation. Jones worked with Bill Pearson, the supervising model maker on Alien, to help design the lunar rovers and helium-3 harvesters in the film. The Moon base was created as a full 360-degree set, measuring 85–90 feet (26–27 m) long and approximately 70 feet (21 m) wide. The film's robot, GERTY, was designed to be bound to an overhead rail within the mining base since its mechanical tether was critical to the story's plot. The visual effects were provided by Cinesite, which has sought cut-price deals with independent films. Since Jones had an effects background with TV advertisements, he drew on his experience to create special effects within a small budget.
International sales for Moon are handled by the Independent sales company. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group acquired distribution rights to the film for English-speaking territories. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group was considering making Moon a direct-to-DVD release; however, after Moon premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival in January 2009, Sony Pictures Classics decided to handle this film's theatrical release for Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group.
Sony Pictures Classics distributed the film in the United States in cinemas, beginning with screenings in select cinemas in New York and Los Angeles on 12 June. The film's British premiere was held on 20 June 2009 at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh as part of the 63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival. Jones was present at the screening along with other key crew members. The full UK release was on 17 July. The Australian release was on 8 October.
Moon received positive reviews. It holds a 90% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 67/100. Damon Wise of The Times praised Jones' "thoughtful" direction and Rockwell's "poignant" performance. Wise wrote of the film's approach to the science fiction genre: "Though it uses impressive sci-fi trappings to tell its story—the fabulous models and moonscapes are recognisably retro yet surprisingly real—this is a film about what it means, and takes, to be human."
Duane Byrge of The Hollywood Reporter applauded screenwriter Nathan Parker's “sharp [and] individualistic” dialogue and the way in which Parker combined science fiction and Big Brother themes. Byrge also believed that cinematographer Gary Shaw's work and composer Clint Mansell's music intensified the drama. Byrge wrote: “Nonetheless, "Moon" is darkened by its own excellencies: The white, claustrophobic look is apt and moody, but a lack of physical action enervates the story thrust.” The critic felt mixed about the star's performance, describing him as “adept at limning his character's dissolution” but finding that he did not have “the audacious, dominant edge” for the major confrontation at the end of the film.
Empire magazine praised Rockwell's performance, including it in '10 Egregious Oscar Snubs—The worthy contenders that the Academy overlooked' feature and referred to his performance as "one ... of the best performances of the year".
Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of 4, saying: “"Moon" is a superior example of that threatened genre, hard science-fiction, which is often about the interface between humans and alien intelligence of one kind of or other, including digital. John W. Campbell Jr., the godfather of this genre, would have approved. The movie is really all about ideas. It only seems to be about emotions. How real are our emotions, anyway? How real are we? Someday I will die. This laptop I'm using is patient and can wait.” Moon also received positive reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.
Reception from the scientific community
Moon was screened as part of a lecture series at NASA's Space Center Houston, at the request of a professor there. “He'd been reading online that we'd done this film about Helium-3 mining and that's something that people at NASA are working on”, says Jones. “We did a Q&A afterward. They asked me why the base looked so sturdy, like a bunker, and not like the kind of stuff they are designing that they are going to transport with them. I said 'Well, in the future I assume you won't want to continue carrying everything with you, you'll want to use the resources on the moon to build things' and a woman in the audience raised her hand and said, 'I'm actually working on something called Mooncrete, which is concrete that mixes lunar regolith and ice water from the moon's polar caps.'”
The film was praised by critics and was nominated for two BAFTA Awards, winning Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Jones. It also won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (defeating Academy Award for Best Picture nominees Avatar and District 9) and two British Independent Film Awards including Best British Independent Film (BIFA) winner of the 2009 award for the Best British Independent Film. It was nominated for the Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film and Best Actor for Rockwell.
- Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film nomination
- Carl Foreman award for special achievement by a British director, writer or producer in their first feature film
- Best British Independent Film
- Douglas Hickox Award for Duncan Jones
- Best Actor nomination for Sam Rockwell
- Best Director nomination for Duncan Jones
- Best Screenplay nomination for Nathan Parker
- Technical Achievement, Original Score nomination for Clint Mansell
- Technical Achievement, Production Design nomination for Tony Noble
- Best Actor nomination for Sam Rockwell (nomination)
- Best Production (nomination)
- Fantastic'Arts 2010
- Special Prize
- Critics' Prize
- Hugo Awards 2010
- Kermode Awards 2010
- Best Director for Duncan Jones
Jones is planning a follow-up graphic novel, titled Mute, which will serve as an epilogue to Moon. Should the project progress to a film, "Sam has agreed to do a little cameo in the next film", says Jones, who ultimately hopes to complete a trilogy of films set in the same fictional universe.
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- Official website
- Moon at the Internet Movie Database
- Moon at AllRovi
- Moon at Box Office Mojo
- Moon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Moon at Metacritic