Volume 21, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 1 - 7, 2009
Tribeca Film Festival Review: Moon
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures
Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell
BY TRAV S.D.
Frequently, an actor is called upon to carry a picture; less
often, is he asked to be the picture.
Such is the case with Sam Rockwell in “Moon,” a sci-fi one-hander in the tradition of “THX-1138.” “Countdown” and long stretches of “2001: A Space Odyssey” — not to mention the song “Space Oddity” by writer-director Duncan Jones’s father: David Bowie.
Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the lone human inhabitant of a lunar mining facility (aside from an infuriatingly calm robot named GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey). We are already suspecting that Sam is going a little space-happy when he has an accident that seems to push him over the edge. He wakes up in the base’s infirmary only to discover another version of himself now inhabiting the station. Is this second edition of himself a clone? The result of a time warp? A hallucination? GERTY will never tell. But the suspicion that Sam’s greedy bosses back on earth are somehow behind it all is never far away.
Rockwell acquits himself admirably in the sink-or-swim role,
by turns heartbreaking and hilarious as he interacts with what is essentially
an empty room. Equally rewarding, though, is the world he is given to inhabit — which in the tradition of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is more plausibly mundane than fantastical, casting an illusion of realism over a world that has never existed. Sad-sack Sam’s lunar workspace is the ultimate corporate cubicle (one with a fourth wall), rife with coffee mugs, post-its, and pictures of the family. In one of the more delightful touches, he watches old (now very old) episodes of “Bewitched.”
Combined with Jones’s realization of the silvery-grey, dusty lunar surface (a vision which seems to have benefited from more than a few hours of research in the NASA archives), the recognizable work environment conspires to trick us into believing we are watching our own future. That — and the political vision of an affluent society being built on the backs of workers cruelly used beyond your wildest imagination.