Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Moon (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Duncan Jones; writers: Duncan Jones (original story), Nathan Parker (screenplay).
There will be major spoilers.
Moon is claustrophobic, set almost entirely within small living quarters on the moon. Sam Rockwell does quite well as the lonely lunar mine operator (the character is also named Sam) who has committed to a three-year contract. He is accompanied, for much of the movie, only by a computer intelligence, Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey. The situation and the sets recall such films as Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) and Trumbull’s Silent Running (1972).
The movie turns on Sam unraveling how he has been deceived about his situation. The pace may be slow for some viewers, but I found it quite involving. As Sam reveals the multiple layers of deception, we get an unusually strong and multilayered character study of Sam. The central conceit of the story, that Sam doesn't know he is a clone, is a bit of a letdown, since the novelty of clones as a science fiction plot device wore off decades ago. Still, it gives Sam Rockwell an opportunity to play versions of the same character interacting with each other and he does wonderfully. The clones age quickly, making it easy for the audience to keep track of who is who.
The film successfully creates a sense of mystery about Sam’s situation. The visuals, both inside and outside the living quarters, while not extravagant, are quite convincing. Gerty, the computer, is oddly the most empathetic character, even while limited to a very simple range of smiley-face emotions it can display on its screen. By the end of the film Sam (and the audience) is hanging on Gerty’s every smiley-face or frowny-face reaction.
The audience is left with some rather important questions: Why is it better to have dozens of short-lived clones in storage for serial use instead of regular workers? Why should the mining company lie to the clones instead of being honest about the situation? Surely there are comparable lonely jobs on Earth that people perform without being deceived.
Moon is Jones' feature film directing debut, and it suggests a promising future.