- This is ground control to Major Bowie...your son directed this movie.
The film focuses on the psychological ramifications of cabin fever and the bleak outlook of the onset of cloning. Sam Rockwell plays two roles-a lone astronaut about to go home in two weeks, and his clone. Revealing the clone is no spoiler; It's all set up fairly early.
Beginning with a TV commercial touting Lunar Industries, a company that makes safer, cleaner air by harvesting moon rocks, Moon veers into strange territory almost immediately. Sam Bell (Rockwell) is the sole worker on a moon outpost, in charge of maintaining all the equipment, vehicles and the moon station itself. His only companionship is a beat-up, helper robot computer (reminiscent of 2001's HAL) named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Gerty shuffles and glides around to assist Sam at every step. Resembling a dilapidated X-ray machine, with a "kick me" sticker on his back and a yellow smiley face on a video screen to exhibit his "emotions," Gerty provides comic relief-or does he? Deception and perhaps hallucinations come into play as Sam receives mail from his wife in the form of delayed video feeds thanks to a busted communications satellite. Sam has little interest in anything but going home. But soon, one thing after another goes wrong and Sam is face to face with a cloned version of himself. Their confusion (and consequently ours) becomes the main focus as to what's next on this planetary agenda.
First-time director Duncan Jones, the son of space oddity himself David Bowie, has a real handle on his vision. The minimalist production design keeps the futuristic setting gritty and realistic as the scenes of moon Jeeps trekking out to check on communication centers, or of the huge moon rock harvester, are not filled with stun-you-to-death special effects. Exploring the fear of the unknown, catastrophes of distrust and the unsolved questions that arise from isolation, this film is more comparable to Solaris than Alien. Not only is it a bold statement about present and future corporate political control, it's a metaphor for life. It emphasizes the existential, and the importance of self.
Rockwell's performance runs the gamut of human emotion. Using his ability to play a tongue-in-cheek smarmy wise ass, but always a regular guy, he drops his usual charm to play two roles: one with a temper and pent-up anger, trying to piece things together and the other with a humorous been-there-done-that boasting attitude. In an astonishing feat, Rockwell is absolutely believable interacting with another version of himself. You will feel both of the Sams' pain, confusion and anxiety every second they are on screen, to the extent that it's nearly impossible to take sides. This small yet mesmerizing flick will not blast Rockwell into super stardom, but Moon is the Rockwell movie for which his fans have been waiting.
Examining themes of isolation, mistrust, confusion, and despair, the power of this film exists in the notion that the human experience transcends the realism of any of these emotions. Moon is a morality play told with passion and perspective; the lunar setting is just the backdrop for a story centered on what's wrong with a lot of things in our world today.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Matt Berry, Robin Chalk. Directed by Duncan Jones. Rated R.