Monday, November 22, 2010
Moon is set on --- you guessed it! --- the moon; specifically, it is set in a mining base on the dark side of the moon. Shockingly, the dark side of the moon does not have fantastic laser shows or old people getting high. What it has is a group of largely automated helium harvesters. Despite the automation, a human is needed to monitor progress and fix anything that goes wrong; it's cheaper to keep the maintenance guy on the moon than to fly him out on a spaceship every time something goes wrong. As such, the sole occupant of the base, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has plenty to keep him occupied (like, say, naming his plants and building a scale model of his home town), but he is eager for his three-year assignment to end in two weeks. The whole gig wouldn't be so bad if the base's communications devices ever worked; Sam gets infrequent video chat messages from his wife, Tess, but he is really incommunicado and out of step with everything happening on Earth. Sam's only companion in the base is GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), a robotic assistant that has a soothing voice (Kevin Spacey), but is limited in its expressiveness. To give you an idea, here are his emoticons:
Thoughtful science fiction movies are not for everyone, I will admit, but I love when I can find a good one. First-time director and co-writer Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie and owner of the middle name Zowie) does a great job developing a film full of isolation and low-level dread and still finding moments for humor and optimism. Sam Rockwell does a decent job in the film's first act, but he gets a chance to really shine once both Sam Bells are awake and interacting onscreen. This is definitely the best non-Van Damme movie (to be fair, nobody can beat the master) to feature the same actor playing dual roles that I can recall. This is another instance of how good Sam Rockwell can be; he plays two different Sam Bells and is able to make them distinct characters. That's pretty fantastic. Rockwell has been one of my favorite actors for the past few years because any one of his roles could make him a household name, they're all that good, and this role is no different.
The film is slow paced, but the story is good. The mystery of the Sam Bells is answered quickly and is what you probably already suspect, so you're not drawn in to a serious puzzle. Instead, this is a film about the concept of identity. That may make the film sound pretentious, but this concept is addressed subtly and through two characters going through very different emotions, despite being the same person. You might notice many similarities to 2001, with regards to the set and character design. While the parallels are too obvious to be coincidence, I'm not quite sure if this is supposed to be an homage to that film, or if this movie is just supposed to take place in the future, as we imagined it back in the 70s. The only complaint I have for this movie is that I felt the plot was a little easy to predict. That's not a terrible thing, since the plot is really secondary to the conceptual core, but it was a minor flaw in an otherwise great sci-fi film.