dir Duncan Jones
scr Nathan Parker
with Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong, Matt Berry, Malcolm Stewart, Robin Chalk
release US 12.Jun.09, UK 17.Jul.09
09/Uk 1h37
Coming and going: Rockwell and Rockwell

rockwell spacey
SUNDANCE FILM FEST edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Moon With a remarkable eye for detail, this low-key sci-fi thriller really gets under the skin as it probes the nature of humanity while keeping us on the edge of our seats. In the near future, Sam (Rockwell) is nearing the end of his three-year stint at a mining station on the dark side of the moon and looking forward to going home to his wife and daughter (McElligott and Scodelario). His only company is the computer Gerty (voiced by Spacey). But after an accident on the lunar surface, he has the surreal experience of meeting himself in the station. Together, the two Sams try to figure out what's going on and what'll happen when the rescue team arrives to find two of them.

The film has heavy shadings of three space classics: 2001, Solaris and Silent Running, both in the way it's designed and in its quiet examination of human nature. When reality starts slipping from his grasp, Sam faces an existential crisis and must figure out who he is regardless of what anyone has told him. And this is what gives the film its kick, even when the plot itself becomes a bit subtle or vague.

Director Jones skilfully builds atmosphere in the limited setting. The effects are superbly unflashy, and all the more effective as a result. And there's a wonderful sense of humour in every scene, from the smiley faces Gerty uses to express his moods to witty nods to sci-fi classics (like the name Gerty). There's also a terrific irony in earth-shattering revelations that come along later, as the script takes an askance approach to defining humanity (and inhumanity), memories and relationships.

Through all of this, Rockwell delivers a raw performance that's quietly understated and extremely potent. This is essentially a one-man show, and we really feel Sam's isolation and confusion as the facts begin to emerge. The result is touching and surprisingly emotional, all while the script and direction maintain a level of creep-out mystery as well as a countdown to the big moment of truth. In essence, this is a film about how we all yearn to know the bigger picture: why are we here and what does it all mean? And Sam's discoveries strike an eerily recognisable note.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.May.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall