OMFG. I've woken up from a nightmare that was driving me crazy. I had this nightmare that George Lucas, the guy who directed that reasonably nice little film American Graffiti had made an SF-like film called Star Wars that had destroyed cinema for thirty years. Thankfully, I know its only a dream because today I saw Moon, directed and original story by Duncan Jones. Thankfully, we now have an heir to Kubrick, Wise, and Roeg.
A tremendously self-assured debut feature from Duncan Jones, the film has a feel not unlike 2001, Silent Running, and even The Day The Earth Stood Still (not the remake). The film concentrates on a small story told against a very large backdrop, and Jones never bothers to tell you everything. Just as Kubrick dropped you onto a Pan-Am flight into orbit and didn't bother to backstory it, Jones does much the same. Why is Sam 1 dying? Well, Jones doesn't tell us, he let's us figure it out. The story about Sam and his wife and child? Maybe I'm the only one, but I didn't see the twist of the knife waiting at the end of that thread. Just hadn't thought of it.
The film develops slowly, focusing tightly on Rockwell's character of Sam Bell (very tightly—the credits list only 8 actors and one of them, Kevin Spacey, exists only as a voice). Sam is nearing the end of his three-year contract running a mining station on the border between light and dark on the moon. With 14 days to go, there's a problem; Sam grabs a crawler,heads out to fix the rock-combine, and has an accident. He awakens back in the base, cared for by Gertie (voice of Kevin Spacey), the HAL-like operating system that supports Sam. Restricted to base, Sam decides to head back out to the mining unit (yeah, it really looks like a combine harvester) where he finds the previous crawler. He climbs in and finds himself, dying in the driver's seat.
This is a film about loneliness and exile, about the things that make us human and the things that keep us human, about those who would exploit them for their own ends and those of us who are unthinkingly complicit. That this is a young man's film is obvious in the ending, where there still remains a belief that there are things that people will not put up with. Had Jones been twenty or thirty years older when he developed this film, I don't think that the casual belief would appear. We can be conditioned to accept anything, just ask Bush and Cheney.
I don't want to give away the ending—not that it's that important, but its the process of getting there I don't want to deprive you of. This is a tightly observed, carefully directed film that accomplishes the unthinkable—it makes me appreciate Sam Rockwell as an actor, not something I ever thought would happen. The twists and turns, the expectations set up and knocked down show a confidence with the idiom, and a strong awareness of the pop culture effect Jones' predecessors had. Whether this film will have the same type of effect remains to be seen, but this is a first feature from a young director, made for about 5 million, and is entering its third week running in Victoria. It's getting great reviews and solid word of mouth, so who knows, this may turn out to be one of the most significant films of the summer. Just don't go expecting Transformers—this is way smarter and way more adult.