From The Balcony
Directed by Duncan Jones
is probably the quietest "science
fiction" film of 2009. The only violence in it is a rough-and-tumble
one-on-one brawl between the lead character and ... well, himself. If
doesn't make it to your local theater, it is definitely worth a look
when it is
released on DVD.
Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is
the sole inhabitant of
a small mining base on the far side of the Moon. Robotic mining
the lunar surface, extracting Helium 3, the clean fusion(?) fuel that
powers everything on Earth; Sam maintains the machines, and
collects containers of Helium 3 from them for shipment back to Earth.
It's a lonely job -- a three-year
contract with almost no
direct human contact, made worse by the failure of the lunar
relay satellites so all messages to and from the Earth must be relayed
stations far beyond Earth orbit. Sam's only regular conversations are
GERTY, the base computer, with its robot avatars (camera-equipped
arms suspended from tracks in the ceiling) everywhere in the base. He
a beard and let his hair grow out into a shaggy mane -- there is no one
to care about how he looks. But Sam's contract is almost up -- soon he
able to return to Earth to see his beautiful wife and young (presumably
than three years old) daughter.
Then strange things begin to happen.
Sam sees people whom
GERTY assures him are not there; worse, when he is on a mission to
check on a
mechanical fault in one of the roving mining machines, a vision of a
standing unprotected on the lunar surface causes him to crash into the
Soon we see Sam awaken on a table in
the base medical bay, his
hair neatly trimmed, his beard gone, with no apparent injuries. GERTY
that he has been in an accident, and that he has been unconscious for a
days. She (or he -- the voice belongs to Kevin Spacey) advises him to
indeed, his first attempts to return to duty are cut short when he
himself unsteady on his feet.
But soon, he discovers that one of
the mining machines is
immobile. He wants to investigate, but a message from Earth orders him
put -- an emergency team will be dispatched to make any repairs
Sam becomes suspicious when he
recognizes inconsistencies in
the answers GERTY gives to some of his questions, and his memories seem
gaps in them. He convinces GERTY to allow him to go out to investigate
immobilized mining machine, where he finds the base's other rover
against one of the machine's treads. Inside the rover, he finds -- an
bearded, older version of himself.
The remainder of the movie follows
the two Sams as they try
to discover the truth behind their impossible co-existence, and to
to do about it. The bearded Sam becomes increasingly ill as the clock
down to the day when he was due to return to Earth, and the arrival of
emergency team, adding to their worries...
is more a mystery than anything else, with
a minimum of computer-generated effects (most lunar-excursion shots
created using miniatures), no big explosions, no fights to Save The
Yet it also provides an intimate view of one man -- in two bodies --
to define what it means to be human, and a sinister vision of how low a
corporation might put on that humanity.
After the (well-deserved) fuss
over District 9
dies down, visit Moon
(To see if "Moon" will be coming to a
you, visit http://www.sonyclassics.com/moon/dates.html
© 2009 Robert Moriyama
Robert Moriyama is the current Short Story Editor* for Aphelion. For some reason, this seems to improve his chances for getting his stories accepted... (To be fair, he only runs his stuff as "bonus" material after filling the usual number of slots.) Among other things, he is the author of the Al Majius "Materia Magica" stories and several entries in the Nightwatch series.
(*Or "medditor" -- an unholy combination of "editor" and "meddler". Authors who have seen their work mangled know what this means.)
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.