Moon opens with a faux commercial for Lunar Industries, the corporation responsible for the mass harvesting of helium-3 from the moon’s surface and sole energy provider for a future Earth starved of resources. Science-fiction cliché you may immediately think. Transparent commentary on modern anxieties such as global warming and dwindling fuel reserves you may also find yourself musing. But the reality is that this short introduction is background to a more personal story, rather than an opportunity for hand wringing moralising about a world doomed by wasteful society.
Instead, Moon follows Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a lone Lunar employee obligated to a three-year contract of monitoring and maintaining the huge harvesters that ceaselessly comb the barren, rocky terrain for valuable HE3, which is then jettisoned back to Earth for consumption.
Confined to stark, claustrophobic living quarters with only fussy servant robot GERTY (impeccably voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company, Bell is completely isolated, but has only two weeks of his contract left to serve before he’s able to return home to his wife and daughter. During a routine check on one of the nearby harvesting machines however, Sam crashes his rover while distracted by an apparent hallucination – a ghostly apparition seen through the showers of debris exhausted from the working machine.
Awakened in the infirmary, Sam inadvertently spies GERTY talking via live feed with his employers, despite being told that live communications are down. Is GERTY all he appears to be, or is there something more akin to HAL 9000 brewing in his circuits, despite his incessantly smiley on-screen emoticon? Why has the apparently kindly robot helper summoned a rescue?
More pressingly, why is Sam seemingly experiencing hallucinations? Is it the onset of cabin fever or something more psychologically deep-seated? More to the point – who managed to drag Sam from the crashed lunar rover and return him to the base? As far as sci-fi movies are concerned, Moon raises enough questions to ensure that you’re irrevocably absorbed in its meditatively paced narrative and always teased with the impending reveal of its hidden secrets.
While this all sounds incredibly portentous, Moon’s core ideas are suitably intriguing and Duncan Jones’ compelling story and assured direction sidesteps any danger of maudlin pretension or navel-gazing. Instead, Moon emerges as an eminently watchable and hypnotic sci-fi movie complete with great sets – refreshingly spare with the CGI and more reliant on models – and an unreservedly fantastic central performance from Sam Rockwell (which undoubtedly deserves an Oscar).
Teetering on a knife-edge between all out psychological horror and thoughtful sci-fi yarn, Moon is essentially both, all held together by Rockwell and his outstanding portrayal of Bell’s internal unrest. Tasked with carrying the entire movie on his shoulders, Rockwell’s role is doubled as the story unfolds, making the feat of his performance even more unbelievable. He even brings much-needed levity to the role, particularly in one moment that sees him manically dance to ‘Walking On Sunshine.’ And Bell’s alarm clock waking him to the offensive strains of Chesney Hawkes’ ‘The One and Only’ is simultaneously clever and funny.
The perfect marriage of beautifully realised sets, riveting sci-fi storyline, genius performance, breathtaking visuals, brilliantly proficient direction (especially for a debut director) and a soaring, melancholy soundtrack from Requiem for a Dream composer Clint Mansell, easily make Moon one of the finest sci-fi movies to emerge in the last decade.
On Blu-ray, Moon’s visuals truly sparkle, highlighting how lived-in Bell’s quarters actually are, with coffee stains running down GERTY’s casing alongside scuffs and scratches as well as a scrawled ‘kick me’ note attached to the friendly (or is he?) machine’s back. Elsewhere, the lunar station looks startlingly clinical and white, like Alien’s Nostromo, while the exterior shots are achingly majestic with far off views of Earth establishing just how distant Bell is from home.
Presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio and 1080p transfer, Moon’s presentation belies its limited budget by offering up truly stunning views and excellent model work that happily stands up under high-definition scrutiny. The picture is noticeably clear of any flaws whatsoever, maintaining a uniformly clean and crisp view throughout. Colours also look incredibly natural, looking warm and soft or cold and harsh where appropriate. Pleasingly, the disc is also region free.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, meaning that the dialogue is always clear and audible and Mansell’s score makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. In short, the audio is nothing short of superlative, maintaining stellar quality for the duration.
Moon’s Blu-ray also comes with a host of extras that shed light on the movie’s production, with two informative and entertaining audio commentaries, a 17-minute making of featurette, a 12-minute featurette devoted to the creation of the movie’s startling lo-fi visual effects and a pair of insightful Q&A sessions, one of which was conducted at the Sundance Festival. A Jones directed short entitled ‘Whistle’ completes a very generous package.
Poignant, affecting, intelligent and expertly lensed, Moon is a stunningly beautiful space odyssey that you simply must see. It is without a doubt, the year’s most essential Blu-ray and one of the best sci-fi movies you’ll have seen in a long, long time. Go on, take the trip…
Audio commentaries Short film: ‘Whistle’ directed by Duncan Jones The Making of Moon: 17-minute featurette Creating the Visual Effects: 12-minute featurette Q&As Theatrical trailer BD-Live functionality
Short film: ‘Whistle’ directed by Duncan Jones
The Making of Moon: 17-minute featurette
Creating the Visual Effects: 12-minute featurette