Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'd heard murmurings about this film for a while, but hadn't really looked into what it was about. All I knew was that it starred Sam Rockwell, who I consistently find one of the more fascinating character actors working in films, period. He's not a star in the traditional sense, and certainly the bulk of his roles have been supporting ones. But he's the kind of actor who, though he might not bring a lot of name recognition to a project, can definitely carry a movie with his own unique charisma and considerable acting chops. George Clooney knew that when he cast him as Chuck Barris in the outstanding Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Duncan Jones has given him another chance to really shine in Moon.

Moon (2009)

This movie will remind a lot of people of 2001: A Space Odyssey, though it takes place in a much more "blue collar" Alien-esque space. It also bears some resemblance to Solaris and is quite a bit more cerebral than a lot of recent whiz-bang, special effects-laden science fiction films.

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the apparently lone occupant and worker on a lunar station that is harvesting resources from the moon that, in the futuristic setting of the film, is turning back the energy crisis on Earth. Sam is nearing the end of his three-year contract and isolation has obviously gotten to him somewhat. He goes through the motions in his work, and his only companion is GERTY, a HAL-like (though not nearly as menacing) artificial intelligence robot. He starts seeing funny things, and one of them leads to an accident. He wakes up in the infirmary, with GERTY tending to him. He doesn't remember what happened, and two injuries that he should still have from the accident and a previous incident inside the station are mysteriously gone.

What follows is bewildering, to say the least, and the whole middle of the film reminds me a bit of The Shining. Is this real? Is it a dream? Has Sam finally gone literally insane? How much does GERTY know? It's fantastic, and Rockwell - who is very much having to do all this alone, without any other actors to bounce off of - is phenomenal. Unlike The Shining, this movie answers the questions it raises, but in making that turn, it takes you into yet more unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.

GERTY, by the way, is voiced by Kevin Spacey, and is a much more benevolent force than you think at first, especially if he reminds you of HAL-9000. GERTY's loyalty is, refreshingly, not to the corporate machine or the greater good, but literally to Sam and his well-being. His job is to help Sam, and he does it faithfully, seeming to almost care about him in a human sense. He's not a menacing red light, like HAL; he's a yellow smiley-face, much like you'd see on an instant messaging program. In fact, his facial expression changes, as if to indicate his feelings. There were some giggles at this in the theater, but having taken part in many an IM conversation myself, I couldn't help being moved - even though GERTY is obviously a machine - when he would make a *sad face* or *concerned face* or even a *crying face*.

This is a really cool and genuinely quality little film, and I'm sad that it's probably going to get lost in the summer shuffle. It won't be out in the rest of the country for a bit, but if you see it's on near you and want something with a little more meat than the usual summer fare, I highly recommend it.

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