Friday, September 20, 2013

Moon Unit...Two?

Now you know I am completely "dans la lune" as the French might say. I've gone from serious documentary, to bigbudget sci indie sci fi?

Perhaps there has always been an "indie" sci fi genre, or at least a non-mainstream one. Think Solaris - not the excellent Stephen Soderbergh 'remake' but the original Russian classic. But "Moon" with the inimitable Sam Rockwell is just great.

I saw this film about a year ago for the first time, and remember really liking it. I used to see a lot of more obscure films on first viewing by discovering them on the rental shelf at Blockbuster. Now that the last great rental chain is dying a very slow death, what will I do? Anyway, a good test for a film is if you like it as much, or even more, the second time you see it, once the novelty has worn off.

Well, this Duncan Jones entry more than passes the test. It is almost incidentally a sci-fi flick, and more a thoroughly human drama. Or is it? OK, no plot spoilers here, but sufficed to say the thorough examination of what it means to be human is really what this well written, filmed and most of all expertly acted flim is all about. And, not since Kubrick's iconic HAL 9000 have we had a computer, er, assistant so creepily voiced, this time by that Horrible Boss himself, Kevin Spacey.

Twist ending stories, whether in print or on film, depend on other qualities to elevate them artistically, since the unexpected ending (quasi plot spoiler) is rather gimmick-y. What Jones does so well in Moon is start with a great story (idea, plot and writing) and leave the rest to Rockwell. And the latter does not disappoint. Although I am now convinced that in every film featuring Sam Rockwell, he seems to be always playing himself, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Rockwell is, to use a cliche, pitch-perfect as the sole inhabitant of a lunar mining operation who just might be losing his mind. Since his character's mind is the primary frame of reference for the film's narrative that creates a marvelous complexity that doesn't leave us until the big reveal in the end - and even then is left fittingly ambiguous.

I was reminded of very 70s era sci-fi drama, Silent Running, with another great character actor, Bruce Dern. Watching Dern fence with adorable little robot-critters as he attempts to salvage what is left of Earth's bio-mass on a giant floating ship was at times humorous and at times tragic. So too with Rockwell's tete-a-tete with Spacey's thoroughly corporate computer/armature/thingy.

If you love indie, sci fi and/or Rockwell, Moon is definitely for you.