Review by Nathan Samdahl (B+)
Moon, Duncan Jones' directorial feature, is a rare sci-fi film in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Outland and Silent Running. With an almost throwback, vintage set design and visuals, Moon chooses to focus almost entirely on the psychological aspects of living in space alone. Sam Rockwell, perhaps one of only a few current actors who could play the lead role(s), excels as an employee on a three-year mission to man a power plant on the Moon. At times on the verge of death and other times at the peak of physicality (often both in the same scene), Rockwell appears to be one of the few remaining method actors. When he looks close to death, you believe it.
While the trailer will leave you (or at least me) with one conclusion as to the story's ending, the actual twist is quite different and unexpected, in a good way. This is one of those movies where the complexity of the story does not really hit you until you're driving home afterwards.
Jones' direction is subtle and calculating. He makes sure not to rush through any story developments, but jumps around just enough to keep the audience a bit unsettled. Jones has certainly watched 2001 many times and has taken both visual and story cues from Kubrick including the Hal-like computer system (voiced by Kevin Spacey). However, as an interesting change, the computer here actually seems to evolve and have a positive emotional attachment to the main character. Instead of trying to hurt him, he actually helps him.
Moon does have a few small flaws. The first five minutes felt a bit flat for me, partially due to a Fringe/Lost style opening credits (with text placed within the contours of the location) that didn't fit the subtleness of the rest of the film. Certainly this is a small concern, and not one shared by the person I saw this with.
Overall, Moon is a bit of a rarity these days as it's not concerned with the flashy special effects usually the focal point of most recent sci-fi; the story is really a morality tale that could easily take place in many a locale. The film is thought provoking, which automatically limits its audience, and is highly recommended amongst the thus-far mediocre summer Hollywood output (Star Trek excluded from this group). And if you like this movie, you may not have long to wait until Jones' sophomore pic Escape from the Deep arrives. I'm looking forward to it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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