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There a few ways you might look at Moon. One might be to get sniffy about the Solaris parallels; another might be to question the disingenuity of having a Hal-lite up front in proceedings. Many a critic has been easy with the faint praise, and one reviewer described the film as ‘possibly the most boring film ever made.’

I think we need to get these matters out of the way early on: if anyone finds this film boring, it means that they are either a) a replicant programmed to hate films that don’t involve Brad Pitt mugging away in a desperate attempt to save the latest travesty that he’s involved in or b) idiots. That simple. Moon is about 384,403 km far from boring. For those that watched it that ‘didn’t get it’, it might as well be a matter of quarks and dark matter – but when will critics watch films and admit as much?

Sam Rockwell is an astronaut contracted to keep things ticking along on his lunar base. We see him doing everyday things, as we must: this is not really a film about space, or isolation, as it initially seems, just as Solaris or 2001 weren’t. But we are led along that path for a while, and things take a turn for the worse as he crashes on a scouting mission. He ends up in computer-overseen rehab (Kevin Spacey as a stoned, benevolent version of Hal – a wimp of an onboard computer. Really, we expect far more underhand bedevilment from our electronic counterparts) and soon becomes aware of a ‘clone’ inhabiting the same ship. Whereby it gets genuinely intriguing.

In terms of capturing its environment, it’s spot-on, and it evokes a wondrous sense of subtle awe with its meagre budget. The time-honoured bolt-ons are perfect. Interiors are effulgent, pristine cosiness, and the canopy of stars and dustbowl exteriors lend themselves beautifully to the intimacy and unencapsulable nature of space. Indeed, the only bugbear you might have is the fact that it’s all too welcoming – there’s nothing to be intimidated by, and you’re more than happy luxuriating in it all.

Rockwell, with nothing to bounce off other than an unseen replica, is miraculous, lending a deep humanity to our multiple protagonists that the film lives and thrives upon. He is exceptional: a dual counterweight amidst the questions being put forward. Can we change and leave our old selves behind? What does ‘we’ mean? Do beards make us look more astronauty?

The film doesn’t pose too many of the ‘big’ questions that cinema has grappled with to different levels of success over the years. There are no monoliths, no meetings with nefarious aliens, no real oddities as such. But the film has an underlying human quality, a generous, sympathetic strain of understanding of ‘our’ plight, whatever that might be. It revels in our quirks and behavioural tics through the guise of Rockwell, and it puts its arm around us and punches us on the shoulder. We’re just here, the film says, and we’re not all that bad. The finale, which has Rockwell (or a version of him, or a projected death-throes daydream – you decide) blasted back into Earth’s orbit in an orgasmic hurtle of homeward-bound elation, throws in a kind of cross-sectional news transmission beamed from the big blue homeland, and it’s perfect. Someone is overheard whining about something or other, but Rockwell is too chuffed to be on the way back to be getting down about workaday chatter and babble and in any case has been rebooted; his exile has squeegeed his malaise, and it evoked memories of a recent documentary about the Apollo astronauts, In The Shadow Of The Moon. In it, Alan Bean, as avuncular an astronaut you’ve never seen, says ‘I never complain about the weather now. I’m just happy we have weather!’. And you’re left with, perish the thought, a new-found sense of appreciation that should last until you’re out of the cinema car-park at least.

The film is a great, understated success that no-one will go and watch. That doesn’t give you an excuse to sit at home while a genuinely brilliant piece of filmmaking flits through your multiplex unawares. If you watch this in several years on ITV at 4am whilst semi-pissed, you’re a lightweight. You’re a lightweight. Take a few small steps for mankind, hand your money over, and help cinema evolve a little by encouraging small, thoughtful movies such as this. It was worth a try…

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I found Solaris unreadable, and I was only able to find the 2002 film mildly enjoyable (I skipped the 1972 film entirely), so Moon’s similarities don’t bother me since the film does a much better job with the story.

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