Moon (2009) / Sci Fi-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language and a scene of sensuality
Running time: 97 min.
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey (voice), Dominique McElligott
Director: Duncan Jones
Screenplay: Nathan Parker (from Duncan Jones' original story)
Moon probably works best the less you know about it. While I do feel my review doesn't spoil the film, I would recommend saving reading anything after the next paragraph until after you've viewed the movie.
Moon is a semi-throwback to the contemplative science fiction of the early 1970s such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and particularly Silent Running, with its protagonist in the isolation of space, helpful robots, and ecological premise. Set in the near future, Sam Rockwell (Frost/Nixon, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) plays Sam Bell, an astronaut assigned to work in isolation on an energy mining project on the far side of the moon for three years. Unable to converse live with anyone back home on Earth, his only source for real-time companionship is the station's on-board robotic system named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey, 21), whose only job is to help Sam achieve his goals, though GERTY is also supposed to make sure things are going smoothly for the corporation that is overseeing the project. With only weeks to go, Sam can hardly wait to return to Earth to see his beloved wife (McGelligott, Dark Floors) and the daughter who was born after his departure. That's if he doesn't crack up from the persistent hallucinations he's been having of late.
First-time feature director Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, crafts this melancholy psychological drama showing all of the despair and loneliness that extreme isolation can foster. A development that takes over the film occurs when Sam gets into an accident in one scene, then appears to be completely fine in the next, though soon the injured and uninjured Sam bell share the same living space. For a bit, we're left to wonder, especially as the two Sams "meet", whether this new Sam is a hallucination or real. It's not long before the solution to this mini-mystery is revealed, which does make the already sad story all the more heartbreaking as it develops. Kudos to Sam Rockwell's nuanced performance for showcasing the different attitudes of Sam, the Sam who is "new" to the scene and the Sam who has already suffered through three years of intense loneliness.
Viewers should not expect a shootout or roller coaster ride from Moon. This is a science fiction film that targets more old school sci-fi viewers, free from tawdry sensationalism, titillation, and romanticism. In other words, it may make some with serious attention deficit problems restless in their seats. It's also a somewhat sad story, and pessimistic (though not unrealistic) as to its view of big business, here a business that touts it is good for life on Earth, and how it will bastardize the value of life for the sake of easy profits. Most of the action takes place on the small sterile-white hued space station, with a few obviously low-budget exterior shots in moon rovers (shot with miniatures), so the scope is somewhat limited to only that which Sam can see.
Often erudite and fascinatingly subdued, it's the kind of thinking-person's space story we've been missing for many a year. It's not perfect, and the quiet of the film allows an entry for nitpicking, but personally speaking, the only facet of the film I would change would be to drop the "upbeat" audio-only, and possibly tacked-on, epilogue. With its fascinating storyline and a terrific performance by its main star, Moon ultimately emerges as one of the better scifi films of recent years.
©2010 Vince Leo