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The Lens: Over the moon for 'Moon'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 31, 2009 - Science-fiction movies are typically big-name/big-studio/big-budget affairs, but “Moon” is an independent first feature film by industry veteran Duncan Jones. It recalls “Gattaca” (1997) in its hard questions about the uses of technology, the ethics of corporations and nation-states – and the meaning of being human.

The time is sometime in the future when humankind has exhausted energy supplies on Earth but has figured out how to mine a valuable mineral on the far side of the moon. Lunar Industries is the name of the American company that provides most of the energy for Earth from a largely computer-controlled complex.

The sole human being on the base is Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), whose three-year contract with Lunar is nearly complete. Soon, he will be joining his wife and small daughter, whom he may glimpse only in taped transmissions. There is some malfunction in the live feed. Sam is starting to “lose it” and is also not feeling well when his moon vehicle crashes. Then the plot thickens.

Sam Rockwell does a fine job of playing almost a solo part in “Moon.” The great Kevin Spacey is haunting as the voice of Gerty, the computer that takes care of Sam: cutting his hair, keeping up his morale and even entering his computer password when he becomes disoriented.

Director Jones has clearly seen and enjoyed many science-fiction movies, including “2001” and “Blade Runner.” The look of the moon, the base and the vehicles, however, is distinctly retro. The setting may be “out of this world,” but everything touched by people is disconcertingly familiar. This really helps the movie get under one’s skin.

Sam Bell has no place to hide, and neither does the viewer. As the plot develops like the peeling of an onion, the horror builds. Don’t miss this one and, if you haven’t seen it, catch up with “Gattaca” on Netflix.

The Lens is the blog of Cinema St. Louis, hosted by the Beacon.

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