Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, written by Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker, directed by Duncan Jones (2009): While it’s no 2001, Moon is an intelligent and enjoyable science-fiction movie, an increasingly rare thing in these heady days of overwrought CGI and underwrought writing.
Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the only worker on a Lunar Industries moonbase on the far side of the moon tasked with mining Helium3 and shipping it back to Earth to power Earth’s fusion reactors. Sam is only weeks away from the end of his three-year contract — and a return to his wife and child on Earth — when an accident leaves him wondering just what is really going on. The result is a tightly plotted science-fiction thriller with several surprises and a refreshing air of scientific verisimilitude.
Rockwell is fast becoming one of my favourite, slightly offbeat actors — his Sam Bell is sympathetic and a bit wiggy, the latter perfectly understandable given his three-year isolation. Kevin Spacey lends his voice to GERTY, the base computer which knows…something. Spacey pitches his voice in HAL territory, leaving one wondering until the final scenes whether or not we have another homicidal computer on our hands. If you enjoyed the old Twilight Zone or the 1960’s Outer Limits, you’ll enjoy Moon’s combination of existential dread, hope, and the joys of plot twists. David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, does a nice job of directing. Here’s hoping he continues to make movies as enjoyable as this, and doesn’t get sucked up into the Hollywood crap-making machine. Highly recommended.
Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Ving Rhames and James Cromwell, written by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato from the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, directed by Jonathan Mostow (2009): I’m not sure I’d call this a good movie, but it is fun. In a future world, cybernetics has advanced to the point that a person never has to leave his or her home — a robotic surrogate, usually better looking than the original person, can do everything for you while you lie in a control chair, directing the surrogate’s movements and experiencing whatever it experiences safely away from any possible harm. But then someone manages to murder a person by destroying his surrogate, and FBI agents Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell are called in to investigate. Ving Rhames shows up in a ridiculous dreadlock wig.
Bruce Willis’s surrogate makes for some droll moments — CGI de-ages Willis’s face and gives him a full-head of somewhat ridiculous-looking blonde hair. The future society isn’t drawn with enough care to be fully believeable (obviously, not everyone would be able to afford these things as they apparently do in the movie), but the metaphoric commentary on people and their avatars, whether those avatars are computerized or simply the fake faces we put on when we go out the door, is interesting and sometimes somewhat poignant. If you could live through a nigh-indestructible, better-looking version of yourself, would you? And would it be fair to criticize people who do so because of mental or physical problems? Recommended.