Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Moon movie review

[Tribeca Film Festival Movie Review]

This 2009 independent sci-fi thriller is directed by first time feature film length director Duncan Jones (who made a bunch of French Connection clothing line commercials) and stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a solitary man who is contracted by the company Lunar to mine on the moon for a natural gas which reverses Earth’s energy crisis. His 3 year contract will soon be up in two weeks and he’s looking forward to finally heading back to Earth to be with his family again. However, fate has other plans for him and after an extraction goes wrong, Sam begins to suspect that Lunar may be trying to replace him after he notices someone else is with him on the moon.

Now out of all the films featured at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, this film was the one I was looking most forward to. It has gotten rave reviews ever since it premiered at this year’s Sundance, and from what I could gather from the trailer, Moon looked like a throwback to the sci-fi films of yesteryear, a slow, methodical and brooding look at how loneliness and paranoia can strike when we least expect it. So now after seeing this movie I can say that it lived up to my initial impressions, but was so much more, and in a lot of ways so much more amazing than I could have imagined.

The first thing that will strike you about this film is how amazing it looks. The physics and the use of gravity on the moon seem dead on, and the beauty of the sun rising over the barren landscape of the surface of the moon looks mesmerizing. There are these simple shots of Sam Bell driving his lunar car in order to repair things on the base and everything looks breathtaking, from the machines to the craters on the surface, to the dust flying, to the overall interior of the moon base. I was just really impressed with how everything looked in the film. And then during the Q&A after the film, the director was asked how much the film cost and he said, 5 million- 5 million to make this film that look like it cost 10 times more. It goes to show you that a small budget is no excuse for a poor film. If you’re smart enough, and driven enough, you can make a small budget go a long way. I mean Robert Rodriguez has made a whole career of it.

This film reminded me a lot of the Twilight Zone episode The Lonely Planet about an inmate who gets sent to a far off planet as a prison sentence to live alone. His only companion is a robot and he dreams of returning to Earth. However in the tv show, the guy is sent there as a prisoner to serve his term, but in Moon Sam Bell goes willingly for 3 years, leaving his family behind in order to mine a dead rock by himself until his contract is up. I think it’s really an interesting concept, how much money is your time worth, and is any amount worth being alone for 3 years?

However, the film is also a thriller, and when Sam Bell comes in contact with the other person on the Moon, things kick up into high gear. Now, before I sat down to write this review, I thought about how much to say, because it’s really hard to talk about Moon without giving anything away. However, I really feel that going into this film with an open mind and not knowing anything more than its surface plot will really add to your initial impression of the film, so we won’t really get into the nuts and bolts about the plot. All I’ll say is, the movie just slowly moves along, as we watch a man anticipating finally returning home after 3 years, and then when the conflict comes, man does it hit. It’s like going for a Sunday stroll and then having to run for your life. Man does it get good.

A little about the acting. This movie is a tour-de-force since it’s predominantly a one man show piece. Again, don’t want to give anything away, but this gives new meaning to talking to yourself. Sam Rockwell has always been one of my favorite actors, but he’s amazing here. I mean, best performance of the year for me so far. He embodies every single emotion, never overacting, silently crumbling, quietly dying inside. You have to buy his total performance or this film would instantly fail and let me tell you, you’ll buy it and whatever else Rockwell is selling. Even better is that during the Q&A, the director spoke how he specifically wrote the film with Rockwell in mind. Now I don’t know why, but Rockwell is a great choice of inspiration for this film.

Moon also brings up a lot of ethical questions, on memory, personality; souls and individuality that I think are nicely done. That’s why I’ve also loved sci-fi films, they can delve into a lot of personal and philosophical ideals that are difficult to do in other types of genres. You can tell that this movie draws its inspirations from Outland, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and definitely Silent Running. Out of those 4 films, my favorite has always been Solaris, but each, besides Connery’s Outland, are classics in the genre and should definitely be seen. If you watch Moon and haven’t seen the 4 films I’ve just listed, you should go back and watch them. I think you’ll get a more detailed overall impression of Moon and how it came to be after.

This is a really moving piece of sci-fi art. Like how 2001 A Space Odyssey was a slow burn that transcended the genre, Moon may not do that, but it’s still high art and leaps and bounds ahead of many of the sci-fi crap we get these days: Mansquito anyone? So I give this a “bring your lunch from home because you do not want to miss this one.” Sony Pictures Classic will be releasing this in June and I will remind everyone then and urge everyone to see it. If you’re looking for something fresh and engaging, Moon will definitely fill that need.

2 comments:

AzraelExael said...

I have to agree 100% with your review. People who complain that “there are no more good movies” should see this one. I was totally mesmerize by the performance of
Sam Rockwell. I have not seen a performance like that since I saw James Whitmore as President Truman many years ago. Five stars from me!

Cinema Cafe Podcast said...

Azrael,

Moon is a fantastic film, stunning for a first time film director and sadly one that not many people will see. It was released a few weeks back in NY and I doubt many people saw it since it was only playing at one theater. I mean if Transformers can make 400 million worldwide in 5 days, Moon should be making double that, yet sadly would be lucky to pull in 4 million. Shame on all us moviegoers.