Talk about curveballs. What begins as a self-searching meditation on loneliness, set on a lunar mining station in the near-future, becomes a Twilight Zone-esque, down-the-rabbit-hole inquiry into identity, madness, and the validity of one’s memories. Sam Rockwell plays Sam, a miner sent to the moon by an energy company specializing in extracting a lunar mineral that ends up solving Earth’s energy crisis.
At the end of a solo, three-year stint, Sam is desperately homesick, eager to see his wife (Dominique McElligott) and daughter again, and give life on Earth another shot after a track record marred presumably by dangerous mood swings. His only companion on the lunar station is GERTY, a robot voiced by Kevin Spacey, and one of Moon’s slyest and most amusing offerings. Equipped with a full range of emotional and verbal abilities, it’s odd that GERTY expresses moods by way of smiley-face/sad-face emoticons that appear on a tiny screen. Add to that Spacey’s gift for the half-genuine, half-sarcastic line reading, and you’ve got one of the screen’s most memorable computer characters since HAL 9000.
It’s in the second half of Moon that GERTY’s motives become suspect. After Sam survives a mining accident, strange things begin to happen. Chief among them, he finds himself sharing the station with his doppelganger, who mysteriously appears as Sam awakens from his trauma. Also calling himself Sam, this twin is just as perplexed as the original Sam at the presence of the other. Both Sams share the same memories, the same hopes, dreams, and goals. What the two can agree on is that GERTY is hiding something. And, in spite of their mistrust of each other, team up to uncover the truth behind who they are and why they’re here.
The star of the show, of course, is Rockwell who bifurcates Sam into two wholly compelling characters, both different shades of the same persona. The more you consider his performance, the more its brilliance and complexity dawns on you. Rockwell brings his trademark quirkiness and snark to both Sams, but his style is tempered by a guilelessness on the one hand and a tough-guy bravado on the other so that we see competing ranges of color coalescing into a pleasing buddy-movie dynamic that’s alternately comedic and poignant. Intriguing, imaginative, and thematically ambitious, Moon gives ample proof that Jones is a serious talent, pushing his concepts into intellectually and spiritually challenging territory.
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Written by: Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott