Saturday, July 18, 2009

Love: Moon

Duncan Jones' Moon is a philosophical film at heart, examining a variety of complex subjects and dilemmas with a precise and perfect manner, mirroring the voice of its robot servant Gerty (by Kevin Spacey) and the emptiness of the base itself. This is both the source of its beauty and a few problems.

(Spoiler Alert) Moon tells the story of Sam Bell, a moon miner marooned (say that three times fast) for the past three years. He’s about to return to Earth when things begin to get complicated, especially when he wakes up after an accident to find an exact replica of himself standing over his bed. The old/current Sam eventually discovers that he and the “new” Sam are both clones. They quickly find out that the mining company they work for has been orchestrating this vast deception all along, and that the wife and daughter that they both remember have long since aged. Without any outside communication, they are left with few options for survival if they are designed to do so at all.

Although the beginning of the film gives us the usual stark view of the “astronaut alone,” common in all well-done space movies and in this case especially derivative of the original Solaris, it is in Sam’s discovery that the film really takes flight and becomes something exciting and new. Sam Rockwell gives a stunning performance, playing multiple versions of Sam Bell with great care and delicacy, making each clone new and yet the same; totally different from the often unintentionally comedic performances a role like that can manifest.

But the subtlety of Rockwell’s performance, when combined with the starkness and quiet of the base, can make the film feel mechanical to the unprepared viewer. Rockwell doesn’t force his audience to feel for him. It’s something that occurs only when you take time out from the screen to examine just how lonely, terrifying, and unfair Sam’s experience is. You have to explore Sam’s plight on your own. It is up to you to unravel the multitude of layers and depths swimming beneath the surface of this intricate story or take them at face value, an aspect of the film that can potentially leave many viewers understandably unsatisfied and unmoved.

One of the emotional surprises in the film does come from Sam’s interaction with Gerty the robot, his only companion. Gerty is the best on screen portrayal of a robot “friend” to date. He takes great care of Sam, not because he feels for Sam, but because that is logically the best thing for him to do, and yet he does his job well. He is neither sinister or abnormally compliant, his emoticon “face” lending the film an at times eerie and other times emotive component that feels more realistic and effective then his counterparts like HAL or Robbie the Robot.

I loved the film, was compelled as I watched it, and unable to easily leave it behind once I left the theater. But I also didn’t leave with a strong emotional response, despite my understanding of the broad horrors of that Sam was facing. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not; maybe it depends on which version of me was watching.

Love: 4 out of 5

Read more from M @ Bubbly


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