Monday, July 13, 2009
Now playing at the Colony Theater in Raleigh:
MOON (Dir. Duncan Jones, 2009)
The directorial debut of the British born Duncan Jones takes place almost entirely on the surface of the moon with the sparest of casts and the eeriest of vibes.
It makes a certain sci-fi sense for Jones since he's the son (originally named "Zowie Bowie") of pop superstar David Bowie and grew up with heavy up close and personal exposure to his father's otherworldly output such as the classic albums "Space Oddity" and "Ziggy Stardust", along with his films THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and LABYRINTH.
So, with that unique upbringing in mind, we are given Sam Rockwell as a Lunar Industries employee, alone and very lonely, on a 3 year assignment to extract Helium-3. His only companion at the lunar base Sarang is a robot named Gerty - voiced by Kevin Spacey. Except for a few blurry video messages on the monitors of his wife back home (Dominique McElligott) and a couple of corporate guys calling the shots, it's the Sam Rockwell show. He's burnt out as Hell; schlepping around the base in a daze donning shades to shield from the blinding glare around him as he counts down the days to when he can go home. He sees odd flickers of images of himself on the monitors and the fleeting vision of a woman in a yellow dress, but brushes these off as weary hallucinations until crashing his rover. When he awakes he finds there is another man on the base - another Sam Rockwell to be exact.
Because there are only so many pieces that make up MOON, it would be wrong to give any more away than that - from just that simple description I bet one could imagine story threads involving clones and delusion; dammit I'm still giving things away. It must be noted that while the Bowie background can't be ignored, this is more spiritually rooted to the seminal sci fi of the '70s and '80s - Jones cites SILENT RUNNING, ALIEN, OUTLAND, and, of course, the obvious connection: 2001 as major influences.
These were the antithesis of the commercial appeal of STAR WARS and its ilk; films that were about probing the depths of character's alienation instead of space laser fights and cute robots.
MOON can be a slow dry ride, but it's one that lingers darkly though thoughtfully. Rockwell's performance never falters especially in scenes when he's interacting with himself; he's as on as any time in his career. Rockwell's no stranger to sci fi either from his roles in GALAXY QUEST and HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY so he is at home here.
It was nice to see models and matte paintings instead of CGI, though I bet that choice was budgetary rather than artistic. There's a low key yet absorbingly spooky mood to MOON that is still with me the next day, while the parts that didn't quite add up (like the unsatisfying ending) are fading. As it still processes, right now I can only concede that it's a fine film debut as well as a promising chip off the Bowie block.