Cult Classics: Moon (2009)
By James Wynne
Starring the ever impressive Sam Rockwell (almost exclusively so, in fact), Moon follows Sam Bell’s supposed final few weeks of a three-year stint harvesting and shipping helium-3 for Lunar Industries, from aboard their secluded lunar station. Penned by Duncan Jones, this modestly budgeted sci-fi film is one of the most outstanding products of its era.
The independence of Moon‘s production frees it of any ‘blockbuster’ requirements, which ensures a profundity not always present in the monopolists of this genre.
We’ve all seen human cloning depicted in various films and programmes in the past, as well as the dilemmatic ethicality of it being confronted and suitably questioned. Moon is not unique in this regard, but the specificity of the message it’s conveying is, in that it’s not just implying that the notion of cloning is unethical — Moon makes the iniquity of it abundantly and irrefutably clear. What Jones is primarily doing here is demonstrating to us *why* this is so. And he does it by delineating how abusive humanity would be of the possibility to generate clones at will and for whatever purpose we see fit.
At one point in the film, Sam #6 (the clone awakened after Sam #5′s accident) protests to the inference that he and his fellow duplicates are nothing more than programmes, present to serve a required function, akin to their automaton assistant, GERTY (Kevin Spacey). But what’s evidenced throughout the film is that their classification is more analogous to manufactured produce. They’re propagated in mass numbers, stored in cryogenic containers (i.e. frozen), and even have an expiration date (three years after their vivification) — their humanity, nothing more than a decoction of the original Sam Bell, implanted in their minds.
The artificiality of their conception makes them no less human on the inside, though, and that’s what makes the fates assigned to them so brutally heartrending. Duncan Jones further illustrates this fact through GERTY, whose personal assistance of Sam Bell often goes beyond his computed protocol; consoling Sam #5 and abetting in Sam #6′s eventual escape from the lunar station — often demonstrating a humanity just as profound as what we’re capable of.
The saddening irony is that these products of mankind are more humane than mankind itself — the assemblage of mankind that devised their respective creations, at any rate.
On the acting front, save for Kevin Spacey’s brilliantly impassive vocalisation of GERTY (the entirety of which he did in a single day, without pay), it all comes down to Sam Rockwell. For a film that’s almost entirely about one man (and in this instance, various iterations of that same man), it’s Sam’s commanding screen presence that keeps it alive.
His ability to draw a clear distinction between Sam #5 (the man who’s been secluded in this sterile environment for too long, and is running on empty), and Sam #6 (fresh out of the box; still impulsive and quick to anger), without sacrificing the core essence of what makes *both* of these people intrinsically identifiable as Sam Bell, is remarkable. They’re completely different, but completely the same. And very few actors could pull that off as convincingly as Rockwell manages to.
Moon is a sci-fi classic, with a deeply-embedded message about the innate immorality of human beings; a meritorious turn from Sam Rockwell; a production quality that surmounts the paltry budget afforded to it, and is also scored with such tremendous poignancy by Clint Mansell (the best of his compositions is “Memories (Someone We’ll Never Know)”, which is featured during one of the most heartbreaking scenes, as Sam #5 discovers the true extent of his tragedy). It’s amassed a small group of fans, but it’s not appreciated nearly enough for the masterpiece that it is. For any enthusiasts of the science fiction genre, especially, this is a must see.