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Low Key Sci-Fi: “Moon” Nails Genre’s Appeal

Low Key Sci-Fi: "Moon" Nails Genre's Appeal

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally published as a “snapshot review” as part of indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Sam Rockwell gets a chance to showcase his broad performative range in the minimalist science fiction drama “Moon,” directed by Duncan Jones in the vein of the genre’s classic entries. Set in the near future, when Earth’s main source of energy comes from the moon, the story is refreshingly low key. Rockwell, essentially the only physical member of the cast, plays an astronaut about to finish up his solitary lunar duty and return to his wife on Earth.

Or is he? When the character accidentally discovers a live clone of himself near his base, it becomes increasingly clear that his terrestrial superiors have a shadier agenda behind their energy generation. Rockwell gets several scenes to interact with his double, smartly complicating the theatrical component of the movie by introducing low level special effects that directly service the plot. The exterior shots, exclusively made with CGI, work well enough as eerie props to supplement this dark story of corporate exploitation.

Rockwell’s only co-star is a computer called Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey in a detached performance that unavoidably evokes HAL from “2001” — but the acting achievement of the movie undoubtedly lies with Rockwell. Based around his diverse exclamations in multiple roles, “Moon” has a slow, steady pace that exclusively lies with the actor’s intense investment in the role(s). The pace is lethargic — perhaps more than it should be, given the confusing plot. But Jones nevertheless offers a welcome alternative to mainstream sci-fi. Nathan Parker’s visually-oriented script nails the genre’s original appeal: Before it wows you with special effects, it forces you to think.

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