Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moon

One of the best, most overlooked actors, the extraordinary Sam Rockwell stars all alone in this understated and also overlooked science fiction thriller written specifically for him. Sam plays Sam, a lonely astronaut living on a moon base to oversee harvesting of Helium 3, a source of clean energy. His contract was three years, and his only companion an AI robot named GERTY, (voiced by Kevin Spacey) and the occasional recorded video message from his employers or his wife back on Earth. Now there's only a couple weeks before his three years is up, and not a moment too soon; Sam is about to go crazy with cabin fever. He's preparing to finally go home, but then... some strange things begin to happen. Maybe Sam isn't only about to go crazy after all.

The one and only.

It seems as if including Sam Rockwell in a cast guarantees two things -- one being that the movie will be significantly improved, and often completely made by his presence, and two, that the movie will then be inexplicably overlooked or underrated, especially if that movie is set in space. Case in point: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Galaxy Quest, and this movie -- Moon. It's a little sad for the movie to be so commonly underrated, but mostly I find it satisfying to think how I'm one of few who have discovered and appreciate this gem -- like the feeling you have when you're in on that really great in-joke.

So here I am, doing my part to include you in the "joke" that is this pretty-darned-amazing movie. But as much as I like it, I can't recommend it for everyone without some reserve. It's rated R first of all, for twenty or so uses of the f-word, by my count. (And that makes this the first R-rated movie to make it into my portfolio of movies reviewed, a noteworthy milestone by my reckoning.) Other than the language though, there's not much worth a complaint -- brief rear nudity, and a scene of kissing I'd give a medium PG-13. But more importantly, to really appreciate this movie, you have to like its type -- serious, understated, edgy, and a little bit unsettling.

GERTY is happy!

And now there's danger that if I'm not careful, I may begin to rant, and go off topic... that topic being the special effects. They're worth mentioning because Moon was an independent film, and had a relatively small budget for a sci-fi movie (five million) yet its looks are deceivingly impressive. The moon's surface, big harvesting vehicles, and the base all look great -- no corners cut, nothing missing or left out. Practical effects were used to their full potential, and the often overused CGI was included only when necessary, or for that final touch. The result isn't dazzlingly beautiful futuristic space scenery, but more gritty and foreboding, and has a very realistic, down-to-earth feel (so to speak) which perfectly matches the tone of the film. The effects are used as they should be; to support the character driven story by simply making its world believable. Here's where I move on before ranting occurs...

A terrible job... but the view is a definite perk.

Now, as you might have immediately understood when I said earlier that the role of Sam (and in fact the entire movie) was written for Rockwell, the casting, characterization and acting was immaculate. You can't go wrong with Sam Rockwell and edgy sci-fi. Sam the character was written extremely well for its actor, and kudos for that goes to writer/director Duncan Jones (in his film debut, no less). Then, in the general sense of acting -- believability, the right balance of emotions, and natural line delivery -- Rockwell is great, just as he should be. Nuanced and melancholy, with his signature side of quirky, and he does it totally alone, with practically nothing to play off of. What really blew me away in this piece though was his characterization. It was fantastic, and had a bit of an awesome surreal effect to watch... and it's something you really have to see for yourself to fully understand.

Like this. The tiny wooden church makes sense if you've seen the movie.

I wish I could explain in more detail the charms of this movie -- more about the understatedly thoughtful and unique mysterious plot, or why exactly Rockwell's performance impresses so greatly, but spoilers prevent me. All I have left to say is that Moon is not a perfect film, it has its flaws, and as I said before it's not catered to be appealing to everyone, but it certainly is to me. And not only -- just a lot -- because it exclusively stars one of my favorite actors. From my perspective, Moon is all-around great, and from every angle a detailed and masterfully crafted, engrossing sci-fi tale.

6 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting movie. Nice review!

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  2. Hmm. Wonder if I can find this.

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    Replies
    1. I don't know, (I had to resort to buying the DVD to see it the second time) but I think you should definitely try! ;)

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    2. I'll have to scout around, maybe add it to my Amazon wish list :-)

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