Starring: Sam Rockwell and Dominique McElligott; voice acting by Kevin Spacey
Director: Duncan Jones
Written by: Nathan Parker; story by Duncan Jones
Released: Sony Pictures Classics (2009)
How in the hell did Sam Rockwell's performance in this movie get passed over for an Oscar nomination? That's the first question on my mind after watching Moon. For crying out loud, he's on screen--by himself or next to himself--for the entire run of the film. Aside from the voice acting of Kevin Spacey, as the moon base's artificial intelligence, Gerty, this movie is carried entirely by a single actor.
Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the sole custodian of a mining moon base for Lunar Industries, who is coming to the end of a three-year contract and looking forward greatly to returning to Earth so he can reconnect with his wife and young daughter. Gerty isn't much of a companion, and the live feed is disabled and still scheduled for repair, so Sam has to get by with recorded messages. The lack of live interaction with other people for so long has taken its toll--his physical and mental health have deteriorated more than a little bit.
The real weirdness comes after Sam gets into an accident while inspecting one of the Helium 3 (the resource now providing most of Earth's energy needs) collectors outside. It turns out that he might not be the only one on the moon base after all, and Gerty has been keeping more than one crucial secret from Sam the entire time he's been working for Lunar Industries. And the fact that the other "person" he discovers looks exactly like him just throws in all kinds of questions.
I really want to avoid spoiling this movie for people who haven't seen it. The integral parts of the movie's mystery come into the light surprisingly early and add a very trippy dynamic to the unfolding story. Concepts of identity, individuality, and reality are touched upon with scenes that walk a tightrope between comical and tragic. There are moments, particularly in the last half of the movie, where you might feel it drag. You think the big reveal has been revealed already, so why should the director tease things out any longer. Well, there's a pay-off, and while it's not an explosive one, it's one I found very satisfying.
It's pretty neat that this whole movie came about because Sam Rockwell told Duncan Jones he'd be interested in doing a sci-fi movie. I find it even neater that there is a possibility of seeing a sequel to this film down the line. I'll keep my fingers crossed on that one.
The aesthetics really are gorgeous with regards to set design and costumes. The salutes to sci-fi films of yore are apparent and appreciated. The tips of the hat to Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey are especially nice. The duality of Sam Rockwell's performances may feel a little stilted in a way, but he sells it all so well that you hardly notice it.
And kudos to the people who made some fantastic scale models of the space vehicles. It's amazing to think a finished product like this cost little more than five million dollars to make. How much did it cost to make Solaris? 'Cause this movie has that one beat.