Sundance 2009 Review: Duncan Jones' Moon
by Alex Billington
January 16, 2009
It's very nerveracking having my third film into this festival be the one that I'm most excited to see. What if it's not that great? Will everything else here at Sundance look bleak afterwards? Thankfully that's not how it turned out, as I saw Moon today and thoroughly enjoyed it. My mind is a bit numb from the whole experience, which isn't actually a bad thing, primarily because the plot was so grueling yet engaging anyway. Moon is one of the few sci-fi features showing at Sundance this year and is a very intimate, low budget, yet fascinating film to watch. Not only does it look wonderful, but Sam Rockwell is flawless yet again.
In Moon, Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut who works alone in a mining facility on the moon. He's contracted for three years of work but as he nears the final few weeks, things start to go awry and he starts to see things. Without spoiling some of the biggest plot elements and not to ruin the experience for others, that's as much as I'll say. Other than Kevin Spacey's voice as the computer, Rockwell is really the only person in the entire film. It wouldn't make sense to say that he stole the show (given there's no one to steal it from), but if it weren't for him, this wouldn't have worked. And I mean that in more ways than one.
First-time writer/director Duncan Jones is not only heavily inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, but delivers a uniquely invigorating sci-fi feature worth seeking out. The production design is exquisite, his style is refreshingly grim for a one-man moon movie, and most of all, his ability to direct Rockwell and bring this compelling story to life is quite impressive (as most will see once the big reveal is made). It's that combination that makes Moon work so well. But at the same time it's still a very small and intimate film that sometimes has problems connecting with its audience beyond its limited scope.
As much as I hate to say it, I think Moon is one of those films that has a niche audience and not much more. If anything I've said has gotten you excited, or even interested at all, then it's certainly a film you must see. It's unfortunate that it feels this way because I'd love for wide scale audiences to be able to appreciate what Duncan Jones has achieved (with indie special effects especially) and what Sam Rockwell is capable of. Moon is by no means a sci-fi epic, but it is gritty, dark, lightly comical, and thoroughly entertaining. It's huge a relief to know that my most anticipated film at Sundance was certainly not a let down.
Sundance Rating: 8.5 out of 10