I mentioned in my Hugo preview that this film reminded me of a ‘50s sf story, and I stand by that. Maybe Theodore Sturgeon or Heinlein in a dark mood. The director and co-writer, Duncan Jones, is supposed to be a sincere, old-school sf fan, and he cites the likes of 2001 as his influences.
Moon was an independent film that stands out quite starkly in a field of blockbusters. Lots of people are championing District 9 as the low budget alternative to the bloated likes of Avatar and Star Trek…District 9’s budget was about 6 times the size of Moon’s. Sam Rockwell plays a stressed worker who took on a lonely three-year job monitoring mining operations on the lunar surface. We meet him near the end of his tour of duty, and he’s quite clearly at his wit’s end. His only company is GERTY, a robotic arm with a snooty Kevin Spacey-voiced AI who’s more than a little reminiscent of HAL 9000. It’s a solid set-up, but the film really takes off with a big twist; it comes early in the film, but I really don’t want to spoil it. Suffice it to say that all is not as it seems, and Sam Rockwell gets to play a wide range of emotions.
This really is, in the end, a vehicle for Rockwell, and he does a great job with it. It’s a very well-acted film with a clever sf plot, sincere human emotion, and solid science despite the budget constraints on effects (though they don’t do great with low gravity, but no one ever does). It’s very effective in its portrayal of claustrophobic loneliness. However, a lot of people, myself included, may not entirely enjoy two hours of claustrophobic loneliness. The film does drag in places, and it’s a bit one note.
There’s a real swell of support behind this film, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see it win the category. It won’t be my choice though. I feel like there’s a contrarian urge at the heart of the film’s support – “I hope Moon wins because it’s an independent film.” I just don’t buy that. Let the best film win. Moon is a good film, and an impressive accomplishment, but, it’s not the best film.Grade: B+