This summer’s mainstream box office was utterly disappointing. I can bring to mind only a few movies that were above average, and a handful that middled at okay. An overwhelming majority of them, however, were suck-shows. If you doubt this, try a sample platter of Star Trek: Beyond, Independence Day: Resurgence and the undercooked Swiss Army Man, and see whether you reach my level of pessimism–I promise, you will.
So when I caught myself dreading wasting $12.50 on what was sure to be a let down of a movie night, I decided instead to look back at my top 10 list. On this list are films that remind me why I decided to study cinema, and near the top of it is one of my favorite films: Moon, directed by Duncan Jones.
Moon is an engrossing film that is driven home by a dynamic, tour de force performance from Sam Rockwell. The absorbing nature of this film comes in part from the feeling of actually being in space, which Moon pulls off without the help of loud, epic soundtracks over wide shots. I’ve seen Interstellar and Gravity, and both of them had the power to amaze me with gorgeous space shots, but Moon is the only film that I’ve seen which has harnessed the ability to make space familiar, and it’s done with the use of landscape shots of the surface of the moon, a grey desert with sharp ground works. The surface feels familiar, but the deep black of ever-present space reminds us that we are not within our world.
It’s that other-worldliness meshed with the utterly human story of Sam Bell, the lone astronaut on the moon, which makes this film so spectacular. Bell is nearing the end of his three year stint harvesting energy for the people back on Earth when he makes a discovery that obliterates the structure of his self-understanding. Sam sees that he has to make a decision about the direction of his life, and he must struggle with his vicious and violent side in the process. His only companion is the lovable robot GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey. The relationship that Bell has with GERTY is what keeps Bell human, but the human-like GERTY is unable to help him with the questions that Bell struggles with as his old realities fall away and a terrifying truth about himself is revealed. The story, by Duncan Jones, is an imaginative look at the question of what makes us human and who is excluded from that circle of “humanness.” It also explores how far we as a species may be willing to go for the sake of efficiency. The story is gripping, and will stick in your mind for years after you experience it.
Part of the punch of Moon relies on the massive twist near the beginning of the film, but you can see it many times and enjoy it equally as much each successive time. Every piece of this film works: the cinematography, the acting, the story, the music, the setting–all these elements add up to one hell of a viewing experience. To top it all off, this film nods at 2001: A Space Odyssey more than once, which makes this film lover’s heart soar. Moon is everything that this summer’s blockbuster films weren’t; to sum up their differences and simplify all that can be said about this master work: it’s amazing.