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Monday, July 13, 2009

A Moonage Daydream

Dir. Duncan Jones
Contents: swears, and some blood.

Moon is the first feature from David Bowie's (David Robert-Hayward Jones) son Duncan Jones (aka Zowie Bowie) and its a sci-fi film about a man in space So, naturally Major Tom and Ziggy Stardust, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. immediately come to mind. So, the first surprise is how incredibly restrained this film is, both from those other works we'd associate with Bowie, and for a first feature film in general. Jones isn't afraid to slow this down and make this a character study. Sam Rockwell, who's one of the most underrated actors working today, gives a tremendous and amazingly complicated acting performance in this film as Sam, the lone occupant of a Helium 3 mining station (Helium 3 having solved earth's energy problem) on the far side of the moon...though, he's not totally alone, he has GERTY, the computer/robot which is programmed to help him. Sam's three-year contract is nearly up and as he gets closer to returning to earth some strange doings-a-transpire. That's all I should say, because the less you know the better. The way Jones handles the major twist in the film, and some of the themes he touches upon, are reminiscent of Andrew Niccol who directed Gattaca and wrote The Truman Show. The way the twist works narratively is more akin to the one in the latter film, where its not a final M.Night-esque "wha?" which inspires a visceral reaction, but rather inspires a "hmm" intellectual reaction. This is probably the smartest, most relevant, Sci-fi film (note, I said film) since Gattaca, and is one of the all-time great philosophically-centered sci-fi films.
While it may look, and at times the pacing may feel (though this is a very absorbing film, and sn essentially a thriller), like 2001 or Solaris, the two great thinking person's sci-fi films, of which this is a worthy descendant in that its also about finding out about inner-human nature (those intangible, mystical things which make us unique and "human") by going "out there", this is also a surprisingly funny and quite original film. GERTY is quite unique in the pantheon of Sci-fi Robots, and Rockwell is able to handle the job of balancing a sense of humor along with a dire realization of the gravity of the situation he is put in. The art-direction is superb, and the decision to use miniatures and models instead of CGI is a very welcome one. The films audio epilogue is a bit too cute, and the film's score gets a bit repetitive, but this is probably the best film I've seen so far this year.

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