The Machine

The Machine movie poster

I caught this movie on Netflix a little while ago and wanted to mention it, because it's a really good indie science fiction film. Okay, yes, it breaks down into a little bit of high action shoot-'em-up toward the end, but I'm guessing that was as much for trailer fodder as anything. What matters is that, prior to that, it's good, high concept, thoughtful science fiction.

Here's the IMDB page for The Machine.

And here's the trailer:


I'll start by saying this: Moon is a science fiction film. It's not an action-adventure movie, a horror flick, or an edge-of-your-seat thriller dressed up in science fiction trappings, as almost everything that gets called science fiction in Hollywood these days is. Don't get me wrong, some of those SF and whatever films are outstanding, but that's not the point. Structurally and aesthetically, they still tend to be the other genre first. This one isn't. It's a science fiction film, beginning, middle, and end.

The quick synopsis, quick because it's already out there in a zillion real reviews, is that Sam Bell (played outstandingly by Sam Rockwell) is the sole operator of a mostly-automated Helium-3 strip mine on the far side of the moon. He's working a three-year contract and is nearing the end. He's been isolated even further by the failure of a communication sattelite. He has no direct, two-way communications, and can only converse with others by what is essentially video mail. His only companion is the computer system, Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey), which has a strong resemblance to both 2001's HAL and the three little bots (Huey, Dewie, and Louie) from Silent Running. The trouble begins when Sam Bell starts seeing people--people that can't possibly be there. Yes, there's a twist to the plot, but it's not the point of the film. It's a bend in the road along the way. It's revealed early enough that the audience isn't sitting there begging for the director to just "get on with it."

I understand that director Duncan Jones intended to evoke the feel of films like 2001 and Silent Running. He succeeded, and did so in a way that is clearly homage, not rip-off. The similarities are lovingly rendered, then bent askew, making sure the viewers know this is not just a rehash of something they've seen before. The set design is reminiscent of 2001, but an alternate 2001 where messy things are messy and dirty things leave tracks. The hardware feels practical and real, like things we'll all be using in a few years.

Overall, Moon is entertaining and well-worth seeing. I would have preferred a little more depth in the ultimate antagonist of the film and a little more exploration of the story's implications, though. As it is, the contrast is a little too stark. I'm not sure where the blame for that lies. It could be what was intended or it could be what was neccessary to get it through the system and onto the screen. Either way, Moon is still a really good movie. I just think it could have been a great film.