Friday, July 10, 2009

Movie Review: Moon

Moon *** ½
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Written By: Duncan Jones & Nathan Parker.
Starring: Sam Rockwell (Sam Bell), Kevin Spacey (Gerty), Dominique McElligott (Tess Bell), Kaya Scodelario (Eve Bell).

Sam Rockwell is one of the most interesting actors working today. Whether he’s doing offbeat comedies like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind or dramas like Snow Angels, or even a strange, flawed movie like Choke, Rockwell is always fascinating screen presence. In Moon, he gets perhaps his best role and has to carry the entire movie on his shoulders. For most the movie, Rockwell has no one but himself, and a very strange robot with the voice of Kevin Spacey, to play off of. And he pulls it off brilliantly. Without him, this movie would fail miserably. But because he is so great, the entire movie is elevated.

Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut stationed on the moon by himself for three years. His job is to over the harvest of the hydrogen - or some other gas, I cannot really remember - which in the near future is the earth biggest supplier of energy. He only has two weeks to go, and he is going slightly stir crazy. The communication satellite is down, which does not allow for direct communication with earth. All messages have to be sent through an elaborate system, so the only way he was to talk to his wife is through videotaped messages. His only contact with anything resembling a human is with Gerty, a robot who roams the ship, and has a computer screen with a smiley face on it, that changes expressions depending on what information he is conveying. Gerty does everything for Sam - from cutting his hair to preparing his meals. As much as a machine like Gerty is capable of loving a human, Gerty loves Sam.

One day Sam goes out in his lunar car to check on a problem with one of the harvesters, and ends up in an accident, that almost kills him. When he wakes up, he is in the infirmary, and Gerty tells him what happened. Sam does not remember how he got back to base, but Gerty will not let him leave. Eventually Sam does leave, and sneaks off to the scene of the accident. There he finds his own body - except he is not dead. He brings himself back to the base, where once again Gerty insists on putting this other Sam in the infirmary. The question is why are there now two Sam’s, and which, if either, is the real one. The one who was in the accident knows he has been there for neary 3 years, while the other one claims to have been there only a week. What follows is strange, intelligent science fiction, with more emphasis on its character than special effects.

Moon was co-written and directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, and unlike most current science fiction movies, it is not just an action movie or horror film in sci-fi dressing. It is a movie that takes its science fiction premise seriously, and follows it through to its most logical conclusion. It does feel the need to dress it up with anything unnecessary. The special effects are low key, but just about perfect. You never doubt that you are on the moon. The score by Clint Mansell is wonderfully trippy. For people raised on modern day science fiction, they may think that Moon is too slow - they’ll keep waiting for the action or the horror that never comes. But for fans of real science fiction, Moon is one of the best in years.

One of the best things about the movie, aside from Sam Rockwell’s amazing dual performance which carries the film, is the portrayal of Gerty, the robot. I have seen countless movies about robots that are programmed with artificial intelligence who eventually snap and look to kill the human characters. But Gerty is different - he is actually a nice robot. He has grown to love Sam, and he helps him, even when that help goes against the wishes of the company that made him. Kevin Spacey does a great job with the voice of Gerty, making him sound slightly untrustworthy at first, but soon becomes actually quite comforting.

Moon is intelligent science fiction, well written, well acted, well directed. It is a film that trusts it audience to come along for its slow burn of a ride. It is one of the best science fiction in the last few years.

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