STARRING: Sam Rockwell, Kaya Scodelario,
Matt Berry, Benedict Wong, Malcolm Stewart, Dominique McElligott, Robin Chalk,
2009, 97 Minutes, Directed by:
inspiration from sci-fi giants such as 2001: A Space Odyssey,
the original Solaris and perhaps even
Outland (if you squint hard enough) comes Moon,
a cerebral potion of killer science fiction that deftly toys with futuristic
worry to construct a terrifically understated nightmare.
Evocative, riveting and
ultimately contemporary in a roundabout way, Moon is a superb mood piece,
sublimely cradled by director Duncan Jones, filtered through tireless work from
star Sam Rockwell.
In the future, Earth’s energy
needs will be filled by Helium-3, a substance harvested through lunar rocks at
an off-world facility overseen by Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) and his robot
assistant Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey).
Nearing the end of his contract with
his Earth employers, Sam looks forward to rejoining his wife and daughter after
years away. Out on a routine mission, Sam experiences hallucinations that end up
crashing his Lunar Rover. Awakened back at the base, Sam discovers an irritable
doppelganger preparing for duty, with Gerty unwilling to provide proper answers
to Sam’s urgent questions.
In many ways, Moon is a
throwback sci-fi event, invested in areas of storytelling patience and weighty
psychological investigation that are rarely welcomed anymore when traveling
beyond the stars. Moon treks cautiously, coolly attempting to manufacture
a suffocating aura of brain-squeezing suspicion as Sam is overwhelmed by the
revelations uncovered when he reawakens, probing deeper into his seemingly
mundane existence as a lonely lunar jockey.
"A clever, captivating addition to weighty
psychological sci-fi . . ."
Employing a striking production
design that merges genre standards of futureworld decoration with tight, bright
white confines that encourage the confusion, Moon is a dazzling film to
behold. Jones confidently maneuvers around the lunar locations with the help of
seamless, deceptively simple special effect techniques and a contemplative
screenplay that’s more concerned with building unexpected passages of tension
than traditional shock routines.
Moon is truly a modern
horror film, eschewing a tiresome slasher mentality to explore the very nature
of identity and the perversion of human life through advances in science and
corporate skullduggery. The film doesn't sermonize, it observes and cherry picks
incoming malice, watching Sam work through his complex emotions as he confronts
his reality as a crude utility.
The picture does suffer from
slight Twilight Zone trappings that
exhaust the running time, and perhaps Jones aims to achieve definitive
profundity with a severity that's off-putting. Cast the little nagging bothers
of the film aside and what's left is fairly wonderful stuff. Moon
clutches the viewer firmly early on and slowly tightens the noose as Sam swims
through his eroding doubt.
The role is beautifully played by Rockwell, who nails
every square inch of bewildered response available to Sam as he confronts his
purpose. Support is handled with spooky calm by Spacey, who infuses Gerty with a
chilling sense of soothing robot loyalty and procedural unease. The performance
is matched by the disturbingly reassuring design of Gerty: a bulky mechanical
friend with a smiley face display up front and unspecified company man
Where Sam takes his paranoia
will remain behind tight spoiler doors. Rest assured that Jones is respectful to
Sam’s philosophical concerns and to the needs of a satisfying cinematic
conclusion. Moon is a clever, captivating addition to the (mentally) lost
in space genre, taking audiences to the farthest reaches of the galaxy while
scripting corporate horrors perhaps too close for comfort.
- Brian Orndorf