It is a bold move to centre an entire movie around one protagonist located in one place, because the movie is the man, is the mining base on the Moon.
Once in a while you get a movie like “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell, where the same-old corporate-villiany story is made different by the way it’s told.
It was a claustrophobic experience for me because just imagine what is a man to do to occupy himself while being out on the moon on a 3 year contract? Running on a treadmill? Talking to plants? Recording messages for his wife and daughter to be sent back to Earth? Okay, so once in a while he gets to go outside, traveling in a vehicle that resembled a more advanced modification of Flintstone’s automobile, so as to harvest Helium 3 from another machine. He would then return to base, pop the canister in a shuttle that will catapult itself back to Earth. But imagine doing that for 1095 days.
But of course, something dramatic must happen, which provides great premise to stretch Rockwell’s performance. As I try to figure out what the huge conspiracy is, what stood out was not the omni-theatre experience of the set design but really Rockwell’s charisma and post production effects. It is challenging playing dual characters and Rockwell seemed like the perfect guy for it. He isn’t so good-looking that trying to make subtle changes to his face would come across contrived and unreal. He has a middle-class presence that doesn’t steal from the circumstance he is in, but yet still charismatic enough to hold the screen for nearly two hours.
Rockwell wasn’t playing two different characters nor was he playing twins. He was in fact playing the same person, at different stages of his life. It’s hard to talk about this without giving too much away, but special effects make-up was incredible in helping to distinguish the two. They were alike but not quite alike. Editing was seamless with the two of them walking past each other in a medium shot, being in the foreground and background at the same time and even having physical contact while the audience had perfect view of both their faces. I marvel at this because having played twins in “Beach Ball Babes”, I know the limitations we have when it comes to having physical contact with my twin. There was none that can be achieved. But then again we’re dealing with a different budget and different expertise here.
The execution of the story lacks a bit of something here and there that could give the movie a bigger punch. Sam’s “friend” was Gerty, a robot programmed to take care of him and assist him on the job. Possessing a human voice (Kevin Spacey), what his role was in the movie wasn’t very clear. At some point you think he might be the antagonist that would impede Sam in whatever he was set to find out, but then there wasn’t much conflict generated, and even though there was a small incident, it didn’t escalate to a point where it made me want to root for Sam and hope he would emerge victorious.
Human emotions were explored, but it was primarily love driven. When two Sams meet while they are at different stages of their lives, there are bound to be personality clashes, pretty much like how we as human beings have internal struggles, except that now you see a flesh and blood mirror-reflection. Usually a lesson of some sort would be learnt and this could help propel the story to the end. Because the movie is made good largely by Rockwell’s nuanced portrayal of the character, the less developed characteristics of ‘New Sam’ only goes to illuminate the slack plot. For instance, we know for sure, the ‘Old Sam’ wants to get back to Earth to reunite with his wife and daughter, and you see that drive whatever he does, right to the end. But what do we know of ‘New Sam’? He looks younger and fitter, so presumably he was created to begin at a stage where ‘Old Sam’ probably would have already been through. This could have been used to establish certain past circumstances of Sam that we may not have learnt from the ‘Old Sam’. This history could then help us better understand why ‘New Sam’ did what he did to achieve his ultimate goal. I couldn’t connect with him because I felt the human need that was driving his actions and behaviour to achieve his goal was not compelling enough. He didn’t want to die, but why? Did he want to go back to Earth to reunite with his wife and daughter? Did he want to go back to expose the corporation?
I like to take the emotional journey with the protagonist because that is what connects.
“Moon” is a creative attempt to tell a typical story but it does have many unanswered questions that if explored could bring a different dimension to the movie.