Isolation has, and always will be, a staple in narrative film. To be completely alone is one of the most basic fears of humanity, a fear that preys on our constant reliance on others in almost every way. Severe psychological problems can arise through lack of socialization, which is why strict measures are taken to prepare individuals facing long periods of time alone for work and/or research. Imagine the total isolation of being the only living thing on the face of the Moon for three years. This is the premise of 2009s Moon in which a man by the name of Sam Bell is contracted to harvest Helium-3 and send it back to Earth.
The film begins towards the end of Sam’s three year contract. Eagerly he counts down the days until he is able to return to Earth to see his wife and daughter. The film delves deep into the topics of sanity, isolation and stark issues of morality. As is the case with most movies, something in Sam’s life goes horribly wrong shortly before he’s scheduled to go home. I hesitate to tell you just what the event is in case you haven’t seen it. It’s not so much of a “Shyamalan twist” as it’s just a blast to watch the story unfold with a varying degrees of horror, wonder and emotion; depending on which of the many revelations you’re at in the film. The emotions of the movie are incredibly strong thanks to the cast, consisting almost entirely of one man.
We may get to witness the emotions on screen, but the man portraying them and making them real and personal to us is Sam Rockwell. His role has been paralleled to Tom hanks in Castaway, and is an easy comparison. A very large portion of the drama and all of the emotional tension take place within the person that is Sam Bell. His only companion is the base computer GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) and his only connection with the outside world is an old video message sent by his wife and daughter. Sam Bell isn’t lost on an island. People know exactly where he is, and he knows exactly how long he has to be there, but his loneliness is so much more vast than almost anything I’ve ever seen on screen; an isolation that is made real both by a stellar performance by Rockwell, and breathtaking sets and atmosphere.
The atmosphere is claustrophobic and crammed when Bell is confined to the base, but when he works on the surface of the moon amongst the harvesters, we’re treated to a far broader and regal scene. For having a small budget, Moon accomplishes everything it needs to, and more with it’s special effects (which are few and far between). We are completely aware with very little suspension of disbelief, that when this character is not in the base, he’s in a wasteland far more vast than any of us have ever experienced, and he’s there alone. The care that went in to the film to create sets, costumes and special effects with a minimal budget gives me hope for the future of Indy Sci-Fi. This wasn’t created to be a money making machine, rather it was created to tell a strong, emotional story, and it succeeded.