"I think we've got a live one"
And now for one of my favourite movies of 2009, and one of my favourite sci-fi films of all time, Moon.
Sam Rockwell (Matchstick Men) stars in this thought-provoking science fiction film. After spending three years on the moon as a solitary miner, Sam Bell (Rockwell) is almost ready to return home to his wife and daughter. But as his homecoming approaches, he begins to experience strange things that can't be explained and his employer may have a sinister plan in mind for him. Moon is the directorial debut of commercial helmer Duncan Jones.
Back in 2009, every sci-fi fan was waiting in intense anticipation for what could be one of the greatest sci-fi films of the decade. This film was Avatar, a film that is familiar to many of you, about xenophobia on a planet full of blue CGI aliens.
For those who could see through the shallow plotting and characters of that film, a safe haven was waiting for them. This took the form of District 9, another film about xenophobia that also involved CGI aliens, although much less attractive ones.
What few people were expecting though, was that the decades greatest sci-fi film, one that easily sits within the pantheon of classic 70's and 80's films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Alien, would be about this guy...
...and this guy alone.
It's fitting that director Duncan Jones' first film would involve this subject matter, considering as his Dad wrote many songs about lonely guys in space for a living. You may have heard of him. His name is David Robert Jones, but for showbiz purposes, he replaced Robert Jones with the slightly more catchy 'Bowie'.
For Duncan Jones, previously an ad guru for French Connection UK, this is an incredibly confident debut, with Jones trusting his audience enough to not waste any time on meaningless exposition, and instead letting Sam Rockwell (pictured above) do his thing whilst telling a focussed and affecting story about what it means to be human. The only background given for the film is that the human race has solved it's energy crisis by mining Helium-3 on the moon, and that Sam Rockwell's character alone has been the man in charge of this effort for the past 3 years.
Despite obvious comparisons to the genre classics listed above, Jones does his best to subvert any assumptions that the audience might have, especially in regards to moon-base AI 'Gerty' (voiced by Kevin Spacey), who immediately invites comparisons to HAL9000 from 2001.
Without wanting to give too much away about the plot, all I can say is that the true stand-out of this film is undoubtedly Sam Rockwell's measured performance. He is not only the sole actor within most scenes of the film (all other characters are viewed through pre-recorded messages), but he is also required to perform a character at one stage of his life opposite the same character at a different stage in his life (the specifics of which I won't spoil here). It is truely ridiculous that he got snubbed for an Oscar, as his performance in this film is easily within the top performances of that year. In fact, after multiple views of this film it becomes apparent that every aspect of it perfectly contributes to the tone and overall quality of the film. Jones' controlled direction is beautifully complimented by Gary Shaw's cinematography and Clint Mansell's subtle, but gorgeous, score.
I'll finish this review by stating that this film not only does everything that I'd want a sci-fi film to do, but also everything that I'd expect from a top-class drama. This is a definite recommendation for anyone reading, whether they are into sci-fi or not.
Here are the ratings:
(Sam Rockwell's) Acting: 10
Overall: 9.5 (not an average)