A Modest Sci-Fi Look at Identity: 'Moon' Movie Review

Updated on November 27, 2018
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Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

When human cloning finally became a concrete reality ready to massively impact our global economy, hundreds of debates, forums, and political discussions will analyze the ethical cost of the breakthrough.

And when that happens, Moon will be leading thousands of cinema-forums about it.

The plot, which develops itself slowly, is simple and straightforward. In 2035, a company called Lunar Industries has established itself as the new energy-generating world source. By mining lunar rocks and extracting helium-3 as fuel, the facility is fully automated and only requires the presence of a single human to maintain operations.

That worker is Sam Wilson, who is close to finishing his long and lonely three-year contract to finally join his family. His only companion is GERTY, an AI robot that communicates through–Kevin Spacey–voice and emoticons. Sam can only send and receive recorded messages with his wife and supervisors as serious technical problems eliminated the possibility of a moon-earth live feed.

With mere weeks from completing his contract, Sam begins to suffer hallucinations that eventually results in an accident. Sam crashed his lunar rover, losing consciousness.

However, we see Sam recovering in the base infirmary, having no recollection of the accident. But it’s clear that something is wrong. Sam knows that he doesn’t have all the information. Slowly and progressively, Sam begins to distrust GERTY, Lunar Industries and even himself.

And this is when Sam discovers, SPOILER ALERT, that he is a clone. To make things even worst, the base station is full of frozen-ready-to-go-clones which periodically replaces previous versions of Sam, in order to maintain operations effectively.

And with that, Moon slaps neoliberalism in the face. Because here, the clones are not human with rights, but the cold property of the company they work for. It’s an exaggerated view of our current capitalism, but is it, really? Cloning is already a scientific fact. The equation of our crazy global economy clearly places accumulation of capital over human beings. With just enough imagination is easy to imagine a multinational company secretly and unethically using cloning to generate wealth.

Moon is not just a light manifesto on labor exploitation. It’s also a subtle philosophical reflection on the eternal question of what is that makes us human. These clones are considered disposable workpieces because they have no identity. Or rather, they have an identity that is not socially accepted. But what is shown on screen makes it clear: beyond the biological aspect, all is needed in order to be human are memories, a purpose, and the emotions around those.

Sam Rockwell’s performance is outstanding. His interpretation of Bell’s different clones is a great case for study. At different points of the films, Sam is a hero and a villain. And in the end, we perceive the clones as a victimized entity, one we root for because they’re suffering a horrible nightmare, while the real Sam Bell is, paradoxically, somehow perceived as the real usurper (we never know if the original Sam authorized this).

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This is the directorial debut of Duncan Jones. Apparently, having a lifetime with a legendary father–David Bowie–creating and singing cultural space landmarks such as Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes and Hallo Spaceboy, makes an effective dent.

Jones knows how to play with our expectations. For example, Kevin Spacey looks like a rather obvious choice for GERTY’s voice, but in the end, our distrust–generated by the technophobia of several film classics referenced in Moon like Alien, Outland or 2001: A Space Odyssey–has been somewhat unfounded.

Jones does a lot with very little. With confined spaces, limited CGI, and terse dialogues, he has built a simple film that deals masterfully with deep themes.

Because Moon, for those who need tied ropes, could be seen as a half-cooked social commentary, space thriller or sci-fi philosophical opera. But on the contrary, it’s a simple plot that benefits from those narrative forms in order to ask relevant questions about human identity.

Movie Details

Title: Moon

Release Year: 2009

Director(s): Duncan Jones

Actors: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, a.o.

4 stars for Moon (2009)

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