Tag Archives: Duncan Jones

Moon (2009)

Sam (Sam Rockwell) is a Lunar Industries employee who has signed a three-year contract to oversee automated operations on the moon base Sarang. His job consists of collecting full canisters of helium-3 from robotic harvesters and sending them to Earth, where clean fusion energy has replaced fuel as the main source of power. With only a mechanized assistant called GERTY for company, Sam maintains a regular routine, counting down the days until he sees his family again. However, things change when an accident occurs and he finds someone out there, the one person he would have never expected—himself.

Co-writer and director Duncan Jones deserves praise for this stunning debut, which—as Joachim Boaz warned me—far exceeds the merits of his other film Source Code. While both involve thought-provoking science fiction, Moon (among other achievements) attains greater success in the creation of a singular effect on its viewer. I went to bed that night feeling sorrowful and deeply moved. It’s also worth noting the director’s aptitude in crafting a story about immense solitude and intuitively situating it on the moon, which carries with it simultaneous associations of fascination and alienation. On the one hand, it’s new terrain—exotic and unfamiliar. On the other, it represents the furthest possible distance between one man and others (in this case, also himself).

Moon is a prime example of the kind of science fiction that asks the terrible questions. What does it mean to be human? What differentiates us from highly intelligent machines like GERTY, one that can express a limited range of emotions and even make decisions on its own? In a world where both are manufactured, rebooted, and disposed of as needed, where do we draw the line? This film forewarns of a plausible (and in some ways already palpable) future based on dehumanization, where our perception of man draws from mere practicality, where a person is reduced to a commodity, of which hundreds of similar stocks may be produced; most cruelly of all, where an individual is permanently deceived in regard to his own identity. In the most painful of ironies, Sam is reduced to asking questions about his existence to a machine.

A highly satisfying movie, Moon convinces, compels, and assaults with a poignancy human enough to disturb an emotional core. It is a film I am grateful to have watched, and one I passionately recommend.

‘GERTY, we’re not programmed. We’re people, you understand?’

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Source Code (2011)

It’s Saturday that finally did it. I have always disliked going to movie theaters, but never more than now. Last weekend’s mad shoe-shopping, food-buying, seat-scrambling affair with Maki turned me off from the whole deal (seat stealers are the worst). So from now on, unless I decide a film’s worth the hassle, I’m sticking to videos.

Fresh off military duty in Afghanistan, Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself suddenly alone in a cramped chamber, a computer monitor his only connection to the outside world. An Air Force officer, Capt. Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), tells him that he must solve a bombing mystery using Source Code, a program that would allow him to relive a dead man’s last memory. In this pseudo-reality that lasts only eight minutes, where he falls in love with a girl named Christina (Michelle Monaghan), he must complete his mission before time runs out and the bomber strikes again.

Source Code offers a morbidly intriguing premise: technology that allows for an infinite reliving of death. It also provides an interesting (albeit familiar) resolution: the forking of worlds at decision junctures (also in Kenzaburo Oe’s A Personal Matter). “You think there’s an alternate version of you?” Capt. Stevens asks his guide. “A Goodwin who made different choices?” As Maki says, Source Code works as science fiction because its emphasis lies not in the science but in its effects on human emotions, on human lives. It also works as a thriller, although in the beginning it felt like it was trying too hard to keep viewers in suspense. Goodwin’s “no time to explain” excuse hardly works: it’s easy to figure out that an initial briefing would have saved more time.

I thought this over a lot, but in the end I have to say that I still have qualms about the film’s too-happy resolution. I would have preferred an ending at the time-freeze scene. Proceeding beyond that point felt unnecessary to me, overkill. The only thing it succeeds in doing is set up a grander Hollywood finale, one that the movie doesn’t need. (Of course I could just be saying this because I absolutely love the time-freeze scene: it made the hairs on my arms stand on end.) Regardless, despite my many I-would-have-liked-it-better-ifs, I really enjoyed watching this movie. If anything, it’s worth the hassle.

‘It’s the same train, but it’s different.’

‘What would you do if you knew you had less than one minute to live?’ ‘I’d make those seconds count.’

‘Tell me everything’s gonna be okay.’