July 13, 2009

MOVIES: Moon (2009, Duncan Jones)

It's sometime in the not-too-distant future, and Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of his three-year stint as the sole human inhabitant of a mining base on the far side of the moon. Most of the operation is automated, but Sam is needed to occasionally repair broken machinery and to send the collected tubes of helium back to Earth.

It's clear that it's been a rough three years for Sam. His only human contact is with his wife and daughter, and due to a satellite malfunction, even that is restricted to video messages instead of live conversation. Sam is on the verge of a physical and mental breakdown, and though he tries to get through the days by adopting a Zen-like calm, even he knows that his patience is mostly an act.

Sam is on a routine run out to one of the mining machines when his rover has an accident, and when he wakes up, he's back at the base, being tended to by GERTY, the ship's computer. And things have changed at the base when Sam wakes up. There's a rescue mission on the way to relieve him early, and his replacement isn't at all who Sam might have expected.

The movie is essentially a one-man show for Rockwell, who is in every scene of the movie, and who does a stellar job portraying the various sides of Sam's increasingly fractured personality. The only other actor with a significant presence is Kevin Spacey, who voices GERTY with a silken ambiguity that marks the computer as a cinematic descendant of 2001's HAL.

This is not a big-budget effects movie like most of the science fiction we get at the movies these days (though the effects we do get are impeccably done); it's a slower-paced, thoughtful movie that asks the audience to pay attention, as some of its key revelations come almost in passing, and aren't explicitly spelled out.

Imagine that -- a movie that actually trusts its audience to think. It's a refreshing change, and Moon raises some ethical issues that I find myself still mulling over a few days after seeing the movie.

No comments: