Thursday, April 01, 2010


A different space odyssey

By Edward Copeland
As 2009 becomes a more distant memory, I keep discovering movie gems from that year that not only barely crossed my film radar but only now, thanks to an extremely lengthy Netflix waiting list, didn't land in my DVD player until this week. Thankfully, it did finally arrive in my mailbox, because Moon turns out to be another in what is ending up being one of the better recent years in films (not that you could judge by the even-expanded list of Oscar nominees for best picture) with an absolutely fantastic performance by Sam Rockwell giving what is, essentially, a one-man show.

Moon is the second film directed by Duncan Jones, who provided the story for screenwriter Nathan Parker. Jones has been famous, more or less, for his entire life, but that was for the name he was given at birth: He was born Zowie Bowie, the son of the famous rock star David, but not only did Zowie not seem a name suitable for an adult, he jettisoned the last name professionally as well. It wouldn't matter what name he directed Moon under because the man did a damn good job helming this picture.

The film invites comparisons to Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is neither ripoff nor homage and stands firmly on its own cinematic feet. Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, a man who is nearing the end of a three-year stint on the far-side of the moon running a harvesting operation that collects Helium-3, which has been found to be the answer to earth's energy problems in the future.

Sam is anxious to get back home to his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and their young daughter Eve (Rosie Shaw). The solitary life of being a one-man operation whose sole companion is a computer/robot named GERTY (voice of Kevin Spacey), sort of a kinder, gentler HAL 9000 (substituting a yellow smiley face for HAL's bright red eye), just isn't enough for Sam anymore.

Though Moon was made on a relatively small budget and without the expensive CGI effects you might expect in a sci-fi film, the film defies the odds with its impressive art and set decoration and moonscapes to make it appear to look like much more was spent than actually was. More importantly, it doesn't need them because as in 2001, this is the old kind of sci-fi where the more important part of the story is its ideas, not its effects.

There are many things I would love to talk about relating to Moon and especially Rockwell's magnificent work. Unfortunately, going into much detail about either would give away plot essentials and ruin the enjoyment for future discoverers. You just have to trust me that it's worth your time to take this voyage.

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Duncan's name change is interesting. As you probably know, his father's real name was David Jones, but he changed it to Bowie to distinguish himself of the then super-popular Davey Jones of The Monkees. Anyway, Moon sound intriguing. I'll seek it out.
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