To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, I will watch and review a science fiction space film from the last decade each day this week: 

Gravity, Moon, The Martian, Europa Report, Interstellar, & Apollo 18

Release date: July 10, 2009
Rated: R

If 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Twilight Zone had offspring, it might look something like Moon. My dad told me about this odd little independent sci-fi film with a cast consisting of one man and a robot. It’s very quiet and slow-paced, but that only helps build the mystery and sense of growing horror as you start to figure out what is happening.

The premise of Moon is that a valuable isotope called helium-3 has been found in quantities on the moon, allowing for fusion technology and clean energy on Earth. Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is a contractor who is the sole human occupant of the lunar base that controls the harvesters mining helium-3. His only companion is the lunar base computer/AI/robot GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) who is rather like HAL’s milder cousin. Sam is nearing the end of his three year contract with Lunar Industries and is eager to return home to his wife and daughter on Earth. But an accident reveals that all is not what it seems to be..

Moon does a wonderful job of showing so much with very little. The sets are stark and isolating without being completely claustrophobic. Sam Rockwell’s acting is brilliant and I still don’t know how exactly they got many of the shots that they have. You do have to accept one slightly far-fetched premise (which I’m not going to get into because it would spoil a major reveal in the film) but other than that, Moon is pretty damn realistic. The threats are more existential than environmental; living and working in space seems more routine and less hazardous than it is presented in other science fiction films. It’s obviously hard work, but no more than working in a coal mine or oil rig or heavy construction.

It also brings up a lot of ethical and philosophical questions regarding the nature of identity, memory, and what is real. And it doesn’t pull emotional punches. Even after watching it several times, there are still parts that make me cry. So if you like your science fiction with more thoughtfulness and fewer explosions, you may want to check out Moon.

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“Space Week” is a Film Review Series celebrating #Apollo50 and focuses on movies from the last decade set in space.