And loved it!
This movie certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. Nearly brought me to tears at one point.
Many spoilers ahead...
I'll start by saying that for simplicity's sake, I'll refer to the two "Sams" as Sam1 and Sam2 (where as in the film they are actually Sam5 and Sam6 clones).
I'll also say that this post is rather long and kind of goes all over the place with my thoughts on the film and the many themes it presents. My apologies if while reading things become incoherent.
Sam Rockwell was fantastic in his dual role, and while limited, Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY was an excellent choice- familiar enough to be engaging but still detached enough to accept as a computer voice. Loved them both!
So the film has several levels much like the greats such as Blade Runner, and 2001. I haven't watched a "hard" sci-fi film like this in ages!
On one level it is a journey into one’s self. Here we have a character who is confronted by essentially his younger self. Only 3 years younger, but yet to experience the loneliness, the isolation and the introspective his three year “contract” will unmercifully provide.
Here is the irony: they both are not “characters”, not “people”: they are clones. They have the memory implants of a real human being, but they are not “that” person. So you get a lot of PKD’s themes of “what is reality?”
We live in the “here an now”, but know who we are via our memories. However can I truly trust my memories? If my perception of the world around me makes me who I am, what would it mean if all of those perceptions which I believe are spontaneous are actually predetermined?
Take for instance the first “message from Tess” Sam2 receives: Tess is in tears. She is glad he has taken on this contract mainly because she believes they need another “break.” (Tess left “Sam” previously because of his temper, and gave him a second chance). She mentions “Thompson” (one of the two Lunar Industries reps who communicate with the base) promising her the World now that Sam is away on his mission. Could this mean she might leave Sam for him? She says that while Sam going to the moon may have been the right thing for their marriage, she worries that it is “such a long time.” Perhaps too long to remain faithful to a man who didn’t appreciate her?
Sam is nearly mortified by her implications. He has the realization of a man who has really screwed up. He will have plenty of time to think about how he could have handled things differently while on his 3 year mission.
Contrast this with the last “message from Tess” Sam1 sees: Tess is happy. She misses him, is proud of him, and is glad he will be coming home soon. Sam1 gets to see his now three year old daughter which gives him great happiness. Tess ends the message telling Sam1 she loves him (something she didn’t say in the “first” message). Sam is overjoyed; thrilled that he will see her soon, and slightly frustrated that it will still be another two weeks before his contract ends.
But all of this is meaningless!
Tess is not on Earth waiting for him! Tess isn’t his wife! Tess isn’t even alive anymore! These are prerecorded messages!
All of the Sam Bells have received the same “first” message from Tess. All have received the exact same string of subsequent messages from Tess. They are part of his pre-programmed life. Perhaps designed to give him something to keep his mind occupied during his isolation. But why not have all the messages from Tess be happy ones? What purpose would deliberately making him feel bad about himself serve?
By initially humiliating him, his three year “life” becomes all about making Tess proud of him, proving to her that he can change and providing a good life for his daughter... and to succeed in doing all of that, he must excel at his mission. He must prove that he can be a patient man (something a three year isolation will definitely test).
Or perhaps this was exactly how the three year snippet of the original “human” Sam Bell’s life played out on the station during his time there. Lunar Industries realized that Sam was a productive, diligent worker mainly because of the situation with his wife and child back home. They retained all of the communications from Tess to Sam so as to have the exact same reaction with the subsequent Sam Bell clones producing a worker motivated to succeed on a personal level. In essence the Sam Bells plays out three years of original Sam's life over and over in exactly the same way.
Sam1 is Sam Bell at the end of his three year life. Sam2 is Sam Bell at the beginning.
Take how Sam2 behaves: He is impatient. He is rude. He is short tempered and violent. However he also has the drive to succeed.
On the other hand, Sam1 is very patient. He is polite and appreciative. Sam1 thanks GERTY for his offer of hot sauce for Sam1's breakfast beans. However he doesn’t really have to “thank” GERTY; GERTY is a robot. But he does it anyway as it is the right thing to do. Sam1 has grown as a person. Tess would be proud to see him thank a robot. He selflessly takes loving care of his plants; something Sam2 looks upon with distain.
All of this is shattered by the revelation that his life is not truly his own. There have been several Sam Bells before him. And there are possibly HUNDREDS of Sam Bells who will come after he is long gone.
But what difference does it all make? They are not people; they are clones. Their memories are not real. Their lives have been predetermined from start to finish.
Are they one step above machines? Like the programmed workers of Blade Runner? If they are merely elaborate machines, who cares how they are treated, or mistreated? At what point are they considered individuals?
The film (and Sam Rockwell’s acting) is brilliant in making us truly feel for "Sam Bell." As well as Rockwell’s ability to have us believe these are two truly individual characters and not merely an actor playing multiple parts in a film.
The film relies completely on the dialogue and character interaction. The effects are minimal. There are no chase sequences, laser blasts or flying through space shots.
The physical fight between the two Sam’s was hard for me to watch. Sam1's anguish at Sam2 turning over the city model he worked so hard on. Sam2 easily beating up Sam1 and humiliating him before stopping (no man likes being told he fights “like a girl”). Sam2 is full of aggression and fight. Sam1 one is “older”, and has lost his edge.
This would be like one of us (over 40 folk) meeting our younger self (perhaps as a late teenager or in our early twenties)- would we be able to keep up with our younger self? We would have experience on our side, but we might be lacking in stamina.
And this difficult scene is followed by GERTY revealing to Sam1 that he IS in fact a clone.
Now contrast this with the earlier ping-pong match: Sam2 is aggressive and full of fight, but has no control. He is easily defeated by the “older” Sam1 who has learned patience and discipline.
Probably the most poignant scene in the film was his live call to Eve, his daughter. Not only is it revealed that Tess has been dead for years, but the “real” Sam Bell is alive and well living on Earth.
Even if “Sam” were able to find a way back to Earth (and prolong his three year lifespan), he would never be able to resume the life he hoped to have as the real Sam Bell is currently living it.
He can never return to Earth. The longshot of the small rover in the foreground pointed toward the large Earthscape in the background emphasizes the futility of Sam’s plight. Earth is so large in the shot it looks as if one could simply jump up and easily land on it; however we know that is just not possible. Neither is it possible for Sam Bell to go home.
Speaking of when the two Sams discover the “jammers”, the look on Sam1's face (before he gets sick) is telling- he looks defeated to know that Sam2 was right all along. Sam1 stares at the jammer as if he is staring at the chains that enslave him.
Which touches on the theme that we have become slaves to our jobs. We get used to the same gruelling routine day in and day out, encouraged only with the anticipation that one day we can retire and it will be over. But in our shaky economic times, the possibility of retiring on time or at all is impossible for some. To retire would bring about harder times than to just keep on working endlessly.
However our protagonist truly IS a slave to his job! His entire life from start to finish is completely about his job and being successful at it. He has the incentive that when his job will end he will be able to go home to his family, however when his job is finished (and he can “retire”) he is literally put to death. It gives a morbid new meaning to the old phrase “This job will be the death of me.”
There are also the wonderful puns and poetic ironies-
Sam’s “Wake me when it’s quitting time” shirt. On any one of us it is one of those typical “I hate my job” kind of shirts...
However on “Sam” (once we learn the truth behind his three year contract) it becomes literal: When the previous Sam clone “quits” (his contract ends and he is incinerated) another Sam clone is awakened. “Wake me when (it is the previous Sam’s) quitting time.”
Sam’s alarm clock that plays “The One and Only” by the Chesney Hawkes- The lyric heard is “I am the one and only!”...
When we first hear the song (before Sam1's accident) it is a funny pun that Sam is alone on the station; he truly is the “one and only.”
However the second time we hear it (after discovering all the Sam clones in the “secret room”) we now know that Sam is anything BUT the “one and only.” The song is now incredibly ironic.
Another theme is struggling to retain one’s identity- when questioned about the “original Sam”, Sam1 angrily shouts “I’M THE ORIGINAL SAM! ME! I’M SAM ****ING BELL!”
One thing I can liken this to is being the victim of identity theft, and the utter frustration in having to “prove who you are.”
The film has a mildly uplifting ending, but certainly not the typical "happy" ending we are all accustom to.
This film easily makes my top ten all time great sci-fim films! Thoroughly thought provoking!
Oh yeah... I know that a "Moon" thread already exists, but it is two years old. So I had to choose between creating a new thread and getting jedifyfed, or resurrecting the old thread and being accused of necroposting.
And if you've managed to read all this, I truly thank you.