A month or so ago I was privileged to see a screening of "Moon" with a few of my friends at the Arclight in Hollywood. Science Fiction is a really pleasure for me, even really bad Science Fiction I find myself enjoying on some deep detached personal level if only for the technical value. So to see "Moon" was really rare, as it was deeply affecting, character centric, and a true stylistic brother to the genre films of the '70's and early '80's like "2001", "Outland" and "Alien".
The plots centers around Sam Bell, played with understated anxiety and intelligence by Sam Rockwell, of "Choke", "Matchstick Men" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" previously. He is a mining technician working the end of a 3 year shift on the dark side of the Moon mining Helium-3, clean energy the Earth has become dependant on. He gets in an accident and things start to become a little strange for him, he starts seeing things, maybe real, maybe imagined, and we wonder if he's lost his mind or if he's at the center of a large corporate conspiracy to enslave him.
It is a true sci-fi "classic" in the way that it deals with current issues that affect us everyday in our society...Corporate greed, cloning, the value of a life spent working, toiling to no visible end, etc...It doesn't deal with these issues head on, it shows us how they have created a world that has trapped our protagonist, and in that way exposes the value of humanity versus the diminishing value of a dollar. Sam Bell is a lonely man, and with the only other character, a simple robot named GERTY(voiced with twisted benevolence by Kevin Spacey), we see how he struggles to make it through every day, lonely and increasingly bent out of shape.
As things start to get weird that's where Rockwell truly shines, interacting with different versions of himself in very realistic ways that are seamless. The technical craft within the film is truly superior to many bigger budget films being made in the Hollywood system currently. The choice to use miniature-scale models over rubbery/shiny CGI gives the film a gritty 70's style realism that makes the fantastic feel more immediate and palpable. I was extremely impressed with the set design and art direction, and the cinematography was impeccable. Lingering tracking shots, beautiful compositions...we witness Sam's descending spiral into madness(or clarity?)with the most beautiful shots in the most controlled environments.
The only true weakness here is that the end, in my honest opinion, feels a bit rushed. Which isn't so much a criticism of the film as it is applause for the fact that I wasn't finished being amazed by Rockwell's performance. He is truly electrifying here and goes with Jeremy Renner in "Hurt Locker" on the early Oscar lookout list. I wanted to watch more of his little moments which are at the heart of the film, more interaction with the other Sams, but all good things have to come to an end.
It's unfortunate that many people will miss this film in the theaters, with this and "The Hurt Locker", I walked out a bit sad, knowing that many people would opt to catch these on Blu-Ray then see them in the theater. No home system can match for immersiveness even a bad Cinema theater. With "The Hurt Locker", the theater drops the bombs right in your lap and you feel the burning sun into your eyes...you can feel the sound in your chest. With "Moon", you are transported at once back in time and forward in time, to a bizarre and weird future one didn't think existed outside of 30 years ago. I just can't see having the same experience watching this even on the biggest LED flat-screen. "Moon" is a must-see while it's still in theaters.
5 moon rocks of out 5.