Sam Rockwell is my main man. I say this not to garner a pause, but rather, so that everyone who reads this will know that I might be biased toward the subject of his acting skills and toward any movie in which he appears.
That being said, he's got a new flick out, which I first learned about from the guys at Live From APT (which I wholeheartedly urge you to add to your blogroll, BTW) which is called Moon.
Moon is a sci-fi film in the old definition of sci-fi: it's mainly a meditation of human issues, examining what people do when they're put into certain situations, which we think of as extraordinary now, but the author thinks might crop up some day. (Or not, I suppose. I think there's probably a realm for sci-fi authors who don't think that their dilemma is a plausible one, but I think that realm is probably pretty dang small.) Regardless, it brought to mind some of the greater, older films and books (obviously Kubrick, but also Bradbury and Asimov, and that classic Dick) that trumpet humanity over all other things, be they robots, space, magic, or just that ominous place called the future.
The plot concerns Rockwell's character nearing the end of a three year contract that he signed with a company that places him alone on the moon, looking over a vast energy-generating operation. The movie starts with a commercial for the company and they brag that they are the number one source of clean energy for the world. Obviously this is an enviable business position and the movie could have gotten into the more sinister connotations of such a company and what they might do to maintain that position, but instead of dressing up as a conspiracy movie, it simply sidesteps that notion with deft implications, and a one-man tour de force from Rockwell.
Since he's the only one up there (with the exception of his HAL-like computer, voiced by Kevin Spacey in a killer side role), his existence is obviously a lonely one. He communicates with his wife via pre-recorded messages, since the live link is broken, has been for a while, and hasn't yet been repaired. His wife and he have a small baby girl, and when she gets on camera, we can tell that Rockwell thinks that his three year commitment was a mistake.
As the movie hasn't even reached it's halfway point, we get the major conflict which will carry it though to its conclusion: Rockwell discovers himself, out at another station, in a vehicle, almost dead. He brings this other back to the main station and demands that the computer give him some answers, but it's actually the other who does that job for him. Together, they work out the main problem, which I won't spoil here, even though it's not a huge revelation.
The way they get through this dilemma, however, is interesting, insofar as what it says about the society that would put them in that place for that reason, with those expectations. (Never let it said that I don't know how to write a vague sentence.)
The movie's strengths, obviously, rest with Rockwell, who is required to carry everything. He does a great job. The story itself, while interesting, doesn't really get rolling until half way through the movie, though, by which time some audience members might be gone. The flick was only playing at the Guild in Albuquerque, though, so I'm sure anyone who's going there to search this out will be there for the long haul.
All in all, this is another in a long line of great roles and performances for Rockwell, and a solid first stab for director Duncan Jones, who is also otherwise known as David Bowie's kid. I hope that he'll have a bigger cast in his next movie, but that he'll still have the same kind of aim.
Bottom Line: Three Stars out of Five.