What’s worse than being a famous person’s child? A famous person’s child who possesses genuine talent unrelated to said parent’s talent. The only time I ever fiddled with my lady friend’s new phone (some sort of Samsung, I think) I searched for reviews of a relatively new film called Moon, which I’d seen the day before. What I found was more reviews than I can count with one mitt utilizing the phrase “Major Tom”, “space oddity”, or both. And yes, every single critic who made the reference thought: they were the only one who made it, they were damn clever for making it, or both. Why? Because the first time director, Duncan Jones, used to be legally known as “Zowie Bowie”. Isn’t now. Though I’d think he’s still David’s son. Regardless of who he is, or more importantly who is family/father is, this is a stunning debut. It’s nice to see a first time director walk into the tavern known as “Silver Screen Science Fiction” and tell all the regulars their bar used to be cool when he was a little kid, but now it’s full of wankers, down a shot of scotch, and walk out.
Duncan Jones picked a wonderful cinematographer for this film (stand by – IMDB – OK, his name’s Gary Shaw, and this is also his debut). He knows when to pull back the throttle at the right times. And, for the most part, that’s what he’s doing here visually. Which is admirable. Because this is a fucking ONE MAN show. Make no mistake about that, Sam Rockwell (who I’m growing to love with each role he selects, more on him in a sec), the base, a CPU assistant named “Gerty”, and the moon itself are the only involved things in the movie. It’s really quite minimalistic; not theme wise, but conceptually. This isn’t one of those multi-faceted production design jobs [see: Lord of the Rings], which might be why everything looks and feels so right. Because of this, lots of directors and DP’s would push for some weird ass camera work. “There’s not enough stuff for viewers to LOOK at, Bob. We’d better put in some wash-cuts, slow motion, extreme close ups of pupils… Ya know, that weird shit the indie kids eat up.” That’s not to say Shaw and Jones don’t maybe give the camera a twist every now and again, or slap on a fish lens, but they rarely do. And when they do, it serves a purpose [see: shot of Sam reaching for himself under the covers].
But honestly, anyone with a taste for subtlety (in any way, shape, or form), and a copy of this script in their hands would hopefully shoot it the same way. This is pretty old school story telling. And if it isn’t, it’s at least old school Sci-Fi story telling. Start with a 1/3 lb. patty of existential science fiction, squirt on some Clarke’s 2001 and Philip K. Dick, and squeeze that between a classic science fiction films brand bun. Good eats. What’ve we got here?? Well: corporations and media conglomerates, working conditions, existentialism, technology, artificial intelligence, ethics, evolution, futurism, family, isolation, the energy crisis, space exploration, pragmatism, revenge, big brother-esque themes, satisfaction, temptation, death, birth, sex, farming and mining, botany, even hobbies (ping pong, and model making). For such a seemingly minimal film, the themes of Moon form a vast field; a field I could probably stroll through and lay in all day. It’s hard to talk about the film without ruining it. All I’ve got to say is that I liked how the big reveal happens within the first 20 minutes or so. Because that makes the film about the implications of such a reveal, not the reveal itself.
But the bigger reveal to lots of people might be Sam Rockwell‘s remarkable ability to carry a film on his fucking back. Good lord. He’ll likely get snubbed of a “lead” nomination this Winter: all those “arty” films come out in the Fall and Winter, and their hype is fresh. Not that this movie had, or has hype. Cause it really doesn’t. It made a decent splash at Sundance, and a few other festivals, but a lot of people aren’t talking about it. Or seeing it. But believe me when I say it, Rockwell turns in some awesome scenes. For interacting with plants, a computer system, memories, and himself (not a whole lot to work with) he makes it seem like there’s more elements around him than an isolated mining job on the dark side of the moon. I think it’s worth a viewing for him alone. Plus it’s just really refreshing to see a movie like this one (not one single explosion) in a summer who’s biggest two Sci-Fi movies are Transformers 2 and Star Trek masquerading as Star Wars. Check it out.