Now, like brave Ulysses, we delve into the underworld of Cinema Discusso and discover what the horrifying denizens therein consider to be the finest cinematic experiences of 2009.
The more I think about it, the more sure I am that Moon was the best science fiction film of the year, perhaps even the decade. It's a small, personal story about man's search for himself in an era where technology dictates everything.
Moon's plot is a simple one. Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) works on the Sarang Mining Base on the far side of the moon, where he's been living all by his lonesome. His only companion is the base's robotic system, named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), and after three years Sam is starting to suffer the emotional stress of isolation. During the final two weeks of his contract, Sam discovers the base's dark secret (it's always a dark secret, isn't it?), and begins frantically searching for a way home. While patrolling the moon for answers, Sam finds a man who looks just like him. He brings his 'twin' inside, nurses him back to health, and together the two Sams unravel the mystery.
Sam has a sudden moment of clarity and wonders if he made the right career choice. Too late, Sam. Too late.
Rockwell is more or less a one-man show here, and he's able to run the gamut of emotions, from emotional distress to violent rage to giddy aloofness, all in a matter of minutes. Rockwell never oversells or underplays; he manages to hit that emotional sweet spot and make the viewer really feel for this poor guy. Secondary characters pop up sporadically throughout the film, but the majority of Moon's running time is spent watching Sam 1 and Sam 2 bicker with one another or interact with GERTY. These scenes take the idea of a lonely person talking to himself to a place that's disturbingly relatable, thanks to Rockwell's performance(s) and an exceptional script.
The production design is top-notch, especially given the film's small budget, and it's proof-positive that model work and practical effects are always more convincing than CGI. Clint Mansell's score is claustrophobic and downbeat, giving the film a rhythmic, machine-like pulse.
Moon is one of the purest sci-fi films of the decade, managing to juggle ideas like genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, space madness, and half a dozen others with ease. For what's basically a 97-minute stage play, that's a pretty amazing feat. In a year of sci-fi junk like Transformers 2, Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation, Moon was the shot in the arm that the genre needed, and I really hope the film finds a wider audience on DVD.
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