When I saw my first trailer for “Moon” early last year, I knew immediately it was something I really needed to see. More than that - there’s a zillion movies a year that I do really need to see for this site, after all - this was something I really *wanted* to see. Alas, it was a comparatively low-budget art house flick that never went into wide release. The nearest theater it was playing at in my neck of the woods was three hours away. That’s three hours one way, a six hour round trip. There are limits to even my fanatical geekery, and while I am willing to fly across state lines to catch a really good concert, six hours in the car to see a 90 minute movie seemed…well…a bit much.
But you know what? I should have gone: the movie is that good.
It is, unfortunately, a very hard movie to review without ruining it for the audience. The entire film is built around a series of plot twists, one of them huge, the others still fairly jarring, and to reveal *any* of them does a great disservice to the film and the audience. Ordinarily I give some version of a play by play, but it would just be wrong to do that here, because this is a film best seen completely cold, with no clue what to expect.
What I can tell you is the basic setup: in the not-too-distant future - next Sunday, AD - there’s a guy played by Sam Rockwell, not too different from you and me (Unless you’re a chick, I suppose). Seventy percent of the world’s energy comes form Helium-3, mined on the lunar farside. It’s scooped up and refined by huge robotic ‘harvesters’, and Rockwell’s job is to recover the He3 and ship it back to earth with a rail gun. He also services and repairs the equipment. He’s got no companionship apart from occasional video-mails from earth, and an AI named “Gurtie.“ It’s a lonely, bleak job, and he’s been at it for about three years.
When we first meet him, he’s already in a fairly bad way. He’s long since stopped taking care of his appearance, he’s forgetting things, talking to himself, drifting off in mid-thought, apparently hallucinating a bit, and having long conversations with plants in the hydroponics lab. He’s not screwed too tight, and he’s well aware of it.
This is the setup for the film, and basically sums up its entertaining-yet-unremarkable first third. Then, at the conclusion of the first act, there’s a major twist which completely shakes his world and changes who he is forever. Not to brag or anything, but I saw it coming. I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve seen a lot of movies, and, though it’s not particularly germane, I’ve also listened to a lot of CDs. Eventually you pick up on things. People I know who aren’t as ubergeeky as myself - folks who aren’t head writers at SF websites, basically - have mostly told me that they were utterly gobsmacked by it. A few - say about 15 percent - likewise saw it coming.
It’s a pretty clever twist, and pretty huge, but it doesn’t exactly come out of nowhere. It’s set up furtively, and if you’re reasonably sharp, you can probably figure what it is before it drops on you. What really makes it remarkable, however, isn’t so much the twist, but the really interesting explorations they do with the changed premise *after* the plot twist. Then, right at the hour mark, we get another series of somewhat-less earth-shattering twists. When I say “Less,” I don’t mean they’re bad. Pretty much an entire lesser movie could be built around any one of these ‘lesser’ twists, but in comparison for the first one, we’re somewhat prepared for them, so they have a little less impact on us - as they’re designed to - but they’re pretty devastating for the protagonist.
Most movies have a fairly cut-and-dry three-act formula: Setup, Conflict, Resolution. This movie technically follows that format as well, but on a more accurate level, we have setup, new setup (Which is also a conflict of sorts) and Conflict/resolution (Which could also be argued to be a third setup, though I don’t think accurately.) I’m probably not expressing this well enough, but in non-writerly terms, basically act one is ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, act two is ripples from a different stone interacting