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Rockwell Makes “Moon” Shine

Posted in Drama, Sci-fi with tags , , , , on March 29, 2010 by ericstraus

When reading the plot summary of “Moon,” one can’t help but think there will be a lot in common with the Stanley Kubrick epic “2001.”  But aside from a few very general similarities, “Moon” shines on its own as a psychological drama, with touches of humor and a brilliant performance by Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke), who not only stars, but also co-stars…more on that in a minute.

We learn through future newsreel footage that an enormous supply of energy is being harvested from below the moon’s surface, and then shuttled to Earth in the form of a space pod.  Giant machines mine the moon rocks, gathering the dormant solar energy and then sending them off to Earth where the energy can be extracted.  Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an engineer who is sent to work on the moon for a 3-year contract job, making sure the mining equipment runs smoothly, and fixing problems as they arise.  We join Sam two weeks away from his 3-year term being up.  His scraggly beard, long hair and conversations with plants tell us it’s been a long 3 years.  Sam runs on a treadmill to stay in shape; the only communication he gets is through video messages – apparently the mechanism that allows live video feeds has been broken (or so Sam is made to believe) for some time.  We learn through the video messages that Sam left his wife and very young daughter back home while he headed to the moon, and it’s obvious Sam can’t wait to see them again.

The only companion Sam has is GERTY, the computer that makes everything on the moon base function.  Kevin Spacey provides GERTY’s voice in his calm, relaxing tone; the only clues we are given to GERTY’s “emotions” are happy face images on his display screen – he’s either smiling, frowning, shedding a tear, or has an expression of conflict.  But unlike “Hal” in “2001,” which GERTY will undoubtedly be compared with, GERTY has a pure desire to help his human companion – GERTY is more likely to do the right thing than what he’s programmed to do, which is an interesting take on the computers vs. humanity conflict…based on “2001,” we expect GERTY at some point to attempt to control Sam…but GERTY is not what we expect.

Things get a bit strange when Sam begins hallucinating – he sees an image of a teenage girl in the kitchen; he sees his own image reaching toward him from under his bed covers, and he sees the same girl on the lunar surface as he’s driving a rover of sorts to check out a malfunctioning machine.  This vision causes him to crash his rover, knocking him unconscious.

Sam then awakens in the infirmary of the moon base, under GERTY’s watchful care…and the mystery begins to unfold as to how he got there.  He convinces GERTY to let him leave the base – Sam goes to where he crashed his rover, looks inside, and finds his own body still inside.

The mystery plays out quite enjoyably for the viewing audience, and as I mentioned earlier, Rockwell becomes his own co-star as there are now two Sams trying to uncover the truth about what’s happened to them.  There is some funny dialogue between them, and Rockwell does an incredible job playing both parts, as they each begin to take on different personalities.  Director Duncan Jones does a truly convincing job in conveying the desolation of the moon, and Sam’s isolation.  The story is quite good, and the mystery that unravels is fairly original and engaging.  It’s unfortunate that Rockwell was not nominated for an Oscar, as his performance drives the film and makes it quite an enjoyable experience.

Final Grade for Moon:  B+

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