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Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Benedict Wong, Malcolm Stewart

Directed by: Duncan Jones

Produced by: Stuart Fenegan, Trudie Styler

Written by: Nathan Parker (screenplay), Duncan Jones (story)

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

As seen at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival:

      Duncan JonesíMoon is about as avant-garde and intrinsic as a movie with a big-name lead and modest commercial viability can get away with, and itís all the more commendable for pushing this boundary as far as itíll go. This a tough movie to review, though, because critical common law has established that itís a sin to spoil the driving force of the plot in the final two acts. Working to ensure your movie-going experience is just as fresh as mine was, Iíll only divulge the basic premise. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is an astronaut near the end of a three-year tour working on the dark side of the moon harvesting Helium-3, a rare element in nuclear fusion that humans have used to solve Earthís energy crisis. Heís glad heíll soon be done, as the separation from his wife and young daughter has been emotionally tasking. The only ďpersonĒ to keep him company all day is the talking, emoticon-displaying computer he works with, named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). But before Sam makes his return voyage, heís involved in a game-changing Land Rover accident. He survives, but something very peculiar happens, causing Sam to question his very existence and the frighteningly advanced technology around him.

     Again, I dare not reveal the plot-point that makes the movie what it is, especially because other reviewers have done such a good job in keeping the secret safe. What I will say is that the movie achieves everything that thought-based science-fiction (the gold standard of which remains 2001: A Space Odyssey) should: it considers the pitfalls of modern technology, makes itself socially and politically relevant through allegory, and provides a credible representation of what the future might be like. Star Wars fans beware: there arenít any intergalactic battles fought here. Instead, nearly all the action rests internally in Sam Rockwellís protagonist, who spends the majority of the movie trying to make sense of whatís going on around him, usually only one slight step ahead of the audience. Rockwell nails the performance by playing intense and smart, but never shying from the humanity of a man who becomes involved in a situation that at once defies humanity and encompasses it. So too does Kevin Spacey, whose recognizable voice initially seems like a misstep on storywriter/director Jonesí part, but clicks on a meta level when one considers how intertwined celebrity and technology have become.

     That Jones set a detailed, credible stage was just as integral to Moonís success as the performances. He made sure to use all the real science he could, and it shows in the movieís authentic feel. Jones also made a conscious choice not to use any CGI, meaning all of the visual effects were physically orchestrated. As a result, Moon is not only visually appealing, itís also that much more believable, making its inferences about the future effectively disquieting. While I must complain that the film gets awful tedious for those of us who arenít big on sci-fi as it gets more and more abstractóno matter how thoughtful it may beóthose who enjoy the genre will struggle to find a better movie all year.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.19.2009

Screened on: 3.14.2009 at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, TX.


Moon is rated R and runs 97 minutes.

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