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MOON
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sam Rockwell, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong, Matt Berry, Malcolm Stewart, Kevin Spacey
Director: Duncan Jones
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: January 12, 2010

“You tell me who that is!”

“Perhaps, you’re imagining things.”

Film ****

2009 represented a step in the right direction for science fiction. We got not one, but two features from first time writer/directors, both of them bold, fresh and superbly unique, not to mention brilliant illustrations of what can be done with a minimal scale budget. In addition to Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, which was also an incredibly groundbreaking piece of filmmaking, fellow newcomer Duncan Jones has crafted a flat out mesmerizing sci-fi mood piece in Moon, which takes its place alongside District 9 as one of the best science fiction movies I’ve ever seen.

It’s a film that I’m positive both Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick would be most proud of. Jones, who is the son of David Bowie, is clearly an admirer of science fiction cinema and it completely shows in every spec of his production. And like such great films as 2001,  Solaris and Sunshine, this film establishes a phenomenal level of mood, which in this case is extremely haunting.

The focus of the story is a space worker named Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who is two weeks away from concluding a three year mining job on the moon. The company he works for, Lunar Industries, sends space workers onto the Moon’s surface, where a substance known as helium-3 can be obtained through extraction from the lunar soil then sent to the Earth where it can be used for clean energy.  Sam has been without human contact, but is not alone, as his only source for pretty much anything is a computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

But Sam hasn’t been feeling quite right during these last few weeks and is beginning to experience stress symptoms. Much of what has caused this is the fact that he has only been able to see his wife via old communication video tapes, since a damaged satellite link has rendered communication with the Earth impossible. Repeated viewings of these tapes has made him overly emotional, to the point that his frequent dreams of being with his wife have pretty much become that of hallucinations.

And it’s his latest hallucination which leads to a huge turning point in the story, and one I will refrain from giving details. What I will say is that this development elevates the film into a mindf**k, pardon the phrase, much on the level of Solaris, in particular Steven Soderbergh’s remake. What it all boils down to by the end is whether or not Sam is indeed losing his mind, and while that may sound like a common plot thread in most sci-fi mood pieces, the way Jones explores it is nothing short of riveting.

The sets of this film look absolutely astonishing, and how Jones was able to accomplish the look of this film, as well as the effects, on the budget he had is beyond me. A lot of the film’s look and feel is drawn from 2001, but I don’t even think Kubrick was working with a budget as tiny as this film. I’m really hoping studios take hints from both this film and District 9 that you don’t need massive budgets in order to get something remarkably effective.

Though there is something of a supporting cast surrounding him, this is pretty much Sam Rockwell’s show, and it is also the actor’s finest moment on film to date, which for an actor of his caliber is truly saying something. Much like George Clooney in Solaris, Rockwell delivers a shattering, challenging and all around purely revealing performance. It would definitely be a shame it he didn’t garner an Oscar nomination for his work here, which is incredibly deserving of one.

Another outstanding element of the film that I must mention is the haunting music score provided by Clint Mansell. Not since Jonny Greenwood’s brilliant score for There Will Be Blood has a lineup of composed movie music stayed with me more than Mansell’s absorbing work here. It’s most reminiscent of Cliff Martinez’ score to the Solaris remake in the way it establishes the mood to the film, which it does a fantastic job of doing here.

My only regret is that I wasn’t able to catch this film in theaters, because I know it would’ve added up to one amazing experience. But nevertheless, Moon is one of  2009’s greatest cinematic offerings and is a definite must see for all fans of true science fiction. Can’t wait to see what Duncan Jones delivers next!

Video ****

We’re already a couple of weeks into the new year, and I have already found a surefire candidate for one of the best looking Blu-ray releases of 2010. Sci-fi and HD were always meant to go together, and the mind-blowing quality on this Sony release is a great example. The 1080p brings this outer space setting to vivid life, providing spectacular detail in both far away shots of the moon as well as up close shots of the surface. The interior layout of Sam’s quarters is also a marvel to gaze upon. For a film like this, trust me when I say that Blu-ray is the best and only option you should go for!

Audio ****

Sci-fi films also come with the promise of dynamic sound, but the quieter mood pieces set in outer space tend to astound your senses more than the effects laden action releases. The DTS HD mix on this release illustrates my point thoroughly. The lossless sound quality encompasses this setting so brilliantly, that even the delivery of dialogue sounds tremendously effective, whether it’s coming from Sam or the computerized voice of GERTY. Add to that the beautiful music score by Clint Mansell, which is played throughout the film and you’ve got one unique marvel of a HD sound presentation!

Features ***1/2

Sony has included a near-perfect amount of extras for this release. Included are two commentary tracks, the first is  with Writer/Director Duncan Jones, Director of Photography Gary Shaw, Concept Designer Gavin Rothery and Production Designer Tony Noble. The second one is with Jones and Producer Stuart Fenegan. Also featured is a short film by Jones entitled Whistle, two featurettes; “The Making of Moon” and “Creating the Visual Effects”, a Science Center Q&A with Duncan Jones, a Filmmaker's Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival, a Theatrical Trailer and several Bonus Previews.

Summary:

Moon is science fiction cinema at its purest. It’s a rare breed of the genre, one driven by ideas more so than visual effects. It’s one of the best and most thought-provoking films of 2009, and already one of 2010’s very best Blu-ray presentations!

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