Release Date: 2009
Director: Duncan Jones
Why I picked this: It’s a great modern sci-fi film, I hear
I feel as though I’ve seen this before. Not to bag on the movie, it was good, but it felt too familiar to my taste. But in terms of visual and story elements, I couldn’t get other sci-fi movies out of my head, including Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Solaris.” I do love movies that pay tribute to classic movies of the same genre, but in terms of visuals, I think director Duncan Jones could have taken familiar elements and create something truly unique out of them. While the production design is great, the cinematography rarely “wowed” me. Luckily, the script was pretty much devoid of cliches. Whenever I thought the story would take one direction, the movie surprises me. The movie is bolstered by a very strong performance by Sam Rockwell as our protagonist Sam Bell, who is nearing a three-year contract for working on the Moon to harvest helium-3 to be used as energy on Earth. Sam is the lone worker, separated from his wife and newborn child back home. As the only human character, everyone else being from a video message or his AI companion GERTY, voiced by Kevin Spacey, Rockwell successfully carries the movie by himself, creating a very likable and relatable protagonist. The world of the movie is very believable and tangible, but as mentioned, it feels familiar. The dynamic of the movie is changed when we are introduced to another Sam Bell, believe it or not, and they, along with the audience, are unsure which is the real Sam and which is a clone. This existential crisis is really the core of the movie, exploring themes such as exploitation from superiors and the purpose of life. It is interesting watching the changing relationship between the two Sams. They don’t react very strongly upon learning about the other’s existence, and they get on each other’s nerves and question each other, finally reconciling and deciding to work together to discover the truth about their purpose on the Moon. But it is at this point where their character’s stop building and the movie becomes a series of revelations, culminating to a tense climax, but an abrupt resolution. There are some emotional moments, but by the end, I wasn’t as invested in Sam’s character as I hoped to be. There is great setup, but not a lot of payoff.
It’s worth it for Sam Rockwell’s acting, nice visuals, and some good moments, but you may feel that you’ve seen something like it before.