Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Moon (2009) ***1/2

Making a movie with just one actor may help keep the budget down, but it can't be easy for a single star to provide compelling storytelling for an entire film. This web article lists a few films that have tried it, with varying levels of success. With a bravura performance in “Moon,” Sam Rockwell proves that it can be done and done well.

Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut stationed on the dark side of the moon. He is nearing the end of a three-year mission there, maintaining harvesting machines that gather and concentrate an energy source, which is then rocketed back to earth. After three years of solitude, Sam is understandably growing stir-crazy, and looking forward very much to seeing his wife and daughter again. Then things start to get weird. I don't want to ruin the story by revealing anything else, but trust me, it's cool!

It isn't true to say that Rockwell is absolutely the only actor in “Moon.” Sam watches a few recorded video messages from earth. He also talks to a robot companion named GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey. GERTY is basically a benign version of HAL, from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with that flat, robotic voice, so when it comes to emoting, Rockwell is still doing all the heavy lifting. For part of the movie, Rockwell acts opposite himself, which I would think is even more of a challenge. As an actor, Rockwell has a rather distinctive style, and given that he is in every scene of “Moon,” your enjoyment of the film will depend a lot on whether you like him. Me, I dig him.

“Moon” explores issues of identity, memory, and reality, all while building a palpable sense of dread. That such a cool film was made on a budget of only $5 million is a testament to first-time director Duncan Jones (who happens to be David Bowie's son). Jones reportedly has a sequel of sorts in mind, a story called “Mute,” set in the same future world as “Moon.” His original plan was to produce “Mute” as a graphic novel, then hopefully as a film. I haven't been able to find any evidence online that the graphic novel got made, but there is talk that if Jones's latest film “Warcraft” does well, “Mute” might happen in some form. I'll be keeping my eyes open, and definitely check it out if it does.

3.5 stars out of 5

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