Reeling it in: For a change of pace, visit ‘Moon’

“Moon”

Sony Pictures

1 hour, 37 minutes

Last week after the debacle that was “The Dark Tower,” I thought, “Surely we’ll get something worth watching next week.” After all, “Detroit,” the gripping and relevant film from director Katherine Bigelow is getting a lot of buzz, so why not?

Why, indeed. If you’ve driven past either theater this week, you’ve seen that “Detroit” is not showing, though “The Emoji Movie” has been joined by “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” and “Annabelle 2,” the sequel to a spin-off of the opening scene of “The Conjuring.” It sounds like I’m making that up, but I assure you, it’s no joke.

So, as has happened before, I couldn’t bring myself to go to the movies this week. Instead, I decided to go back and look at a film that I missed when it first came out in 2009, despite being right in my wheelhouse. “Moon,” the contemplative science fiction film from director Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell, is great — so great, in fact, that I can’t believe I waited so long to watch it.

The basic plot goes like this: at some undetermined point in the near future, nuclear fusion (as opposed to fission, which we have now) is perfected, providing the earth with near limitless, clean energy. The only catch is that the main ingredient of this fabulous new energy source, helium 3, is found on the dark side of the moon. A company called Lunar Industries handles the mining and distribution of this rare resource and everyone is happy.

Everyone, that is, except Sam Bell, the lone occupant of the mining facility, nearing the end of his 3-year contract with Lunar. The work isn’t particularly dangerous — following large harvesting vehicles around the surface of the moon, doing occasional maintenance, sending in daily progress reports, but loneliness is a big issue. Real-time communication with Earth is impossible, due to a downed satellite, but Sam does have one saving grace. Gerty, the compassionate robot that exists to take care of Sam’s needs, is ever present.

Still, life is pretty boring at the station. One day, however, everything changes. On a routine run to check the harvesters, Sam crashes his rover and, though he’s not hurt too bad, this event promises to turn his world upside down.

I think one of the reasons I was so taken with this film is how much it reminded me of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece also deals with the struggles of isolation and the remoteness of space. Most of my friends look at this film as a chore, and I’ll agree, there are parts that require stamina to watch. The slow, yet mesmerizing, journey of a single space capsule as it makes contact with a space station takes something like 10 minutes and is set to Strauss’ “Blue Danube.”

That’s not exactly the kind of zippy space fantasy people today are used to, but it clearly sets the film in the realm of reality-based science fiction — a genre that well describes “Moon” as well. Both films look at the moon, for example, and see not a setting for giant transforming robots or space battles, but as a cold, remote, silent landscape with secrets to spare.

“Moon” really succeeds in setting the mood, mostly due to the brilliant acting of Sam Rockwell, though director/writer Duncan Jones deserves his share of the credit. The film looks great, mostly taking place inside the sterile whiteness of the moon base, but occasionally venturing outside to the lunar surface, a desolate grey desert surrounded by a sea of brilliant stars. Jones combines a kind of creeping dread with a sense of wonder, a feeling I imagine the actual astronauts who landed on the actual moon really experienced.

Rockwell, a great underrated actor, really brings his all to the role, especially considering he’s in nearly every scene. I’ve liked Sam Rockwell for a long time, but often forget that he has serious chops. His portrayal of Guy, the plucky comic relief from “Galaxy Quest” is one of the funniest parts in that movie, but his dramatic stuff is just as impressive. Often what Rockwell does best is to combine the two styles, giving his humor a haunted, desperate vibe, such as in the also underrated “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

His “Moon” portrayal isn’t necessarily funny, but you can sense the humor knocking around, just out of sight.

I realize that this review is almost a decade late, but sometimes being able to go back and find an undiscovered gem is just as much fun as going to a new movie in the theater, especially when that movie “Nutty by Nature.”

Do yourself a favor and seek out “Moon.” You won’t be sorry.

Grade: A

“Moon” is rated R for language, mature scenes, and brief violence.

Chris Jenness ia an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

More in Life

File
Minister’s Message: Are we seeing flowers or weeds?

In diffiult times, we need to watch what we watch

A plate of fried fish is photographed in this undated photo. Frying up cod or halibut in a beer batter is a delicious way to enjoy Alaska’s catch. (Courtesy Victoria Petersen)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: A secret ingredient for fried fish

Victoria Petersen serves up beer-battered halibut with a not-so-secret ingredient.

Photo from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art 
                                Dr. David Hassan Sleem stands on the front porch of his large Seward home in 1906.
The multitalented D.H. Sleem, Part two

Syrian-born David Hassan Sleem settled in Seward in 1903.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: So sayeth the almanac 2020

Once again, the summer has rocketed by and we find ourselves on the precipice of the autumn equinox.

File
Minister’s Message: Being trustworthy in troubled times

Many people have forgotten that the source of our American values and virtues is the Bible.

The cast and crew of “Knife Skills” poses for a photo at Pier One Theatre during a recording session in August in Homer, Alaska. From left to right are Peter Sheppard, Theodore Castellani, Chloë Pleznac, Joshua Krohn (sitting, at sound board), Darrel Oliver, Helen-Thea Marcus and Ingrid Harrald. (Photo courtesy of Lindsey Schneider)
KBBI broadcasts new radio play on Friday

‘Knife Skills’ was written and directed by Homer playwright Lindsey Schneider

Squash from my neighborhood farmers market will be roasted into a sheet pan dinner, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Lazy fall days

Farmers markets keep your hard-earned dollars within your community.

Anchorage Museum of History and Art
                                Dr. David Hassan Sleem stands on the front porch of his large Seward home in 1906.
The multitalented D.H. Sleem, Part one

Most people, if they have heard of D.H. Sleem at all, know the name because of his Alaska maps.

The Bayside Buskers perform from noon-1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, at Land’s End Resort in Homer, Alaska, as part of the Alaska World Arts Festival. (Photo by Aaron Christ)
Alaska World Arts Festival returns

For 2020, most of the festival will be virtual — and sometimes live

Low-bush cranberries are gathered in Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
                                Low-bush cranberries are gathered in Anchorage, Alaska, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Cranberry conundrum

I have enough cranberries to try multiple recipes. So I will.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Our daily bread

Lately it has been baking bread.