Movie News & Reviews

'Moon' rises as one of year's best

In my continuing quest to appeal to no one, this weekend I decided toskip Harry Potter Makes So Much Money the Rest of Us Have to UseSeashells for Currency in favor of a semi-indie sci-fi moviethat's already been out here a couple weeks.

In my defense, all I know about Harry Potter is that everyone'sbeen counting down the days til its jailbait leads reach legalitysince about the second movie, so I feel like I'd be behind on a fewcrucial details, such as a) who is anyone and b) why is the guy withthe beard looking at Harry that way. I'm also the kind of nerd puristwho gets helplessly exasperated when any fantasy series is longer thanLord of the Rings. Those badasses saved the entire damn worldin three books, jerks. You really need to burn six volumesestablishing who the real bad guy is?

Thus, I leave the critical dissection of Half-Blood Prince tothe capable hands of everyone with an opinion that can be expressed in140 characters or less. Besides, it'll still be in theaters when J.K.Rowling has moved on to young adult cat murder mysteries. Moonmight not be around much longer, and it turns out it's more than worthseeing.

Sam Rockwell is the only crewman on the moon base that mines the fuelthat provides 70 percent of Earth's power. Two weeks out from finishing histhree-year contract and returning to his wife and daughter -- his onlycompany all this time has been a robot named GERTY -- he starts havinghallucinations.

-- Times, theaters.

One of the visions causes him to crash his rover and badly injurehimself. When he recovers enough to walk again, he soon discovers he'snot alone.

I've always loved sci-fi because you can do all the things a regularbook or movie can, only also with robots and maybe a talking dog. Butnot all sci-fi movies are one long string of mountain-sizedbattleships exploding in tremendous space-kablooeys; others such as2001 and Solaris use space and technology to explore thepsychology of solitude and human fragility. You know, to be boring.

But the brilliance of those movies is despite the fact if you were towrite them a letter it would start "Dear stuff: Please happen,"they're also hypnotically compelling. Moon follows suit,burning its first act on the quotidian routine of Rockwell's job, adull existence that leaves him hundreds of hours to carve models andget beaten by robots at board games.

It's not immediately clear where this is going. In the meantime,Moon gets by on some stunning lunar landscapes and the strengthof Sam Rockwell, who's so great here and in general that we should allset aside one day a year to wear Sam Rockwell masks and drink hisfavorite drink, which is probably Everclear mixed with bear blood and garnished with a lit M-80.

Once the premise kicks in, Rockwell's quiet isolation immediatelybecomes creepy, arresting, perverse. First-time director Duncan Joneshandles Rockwell's increasing desperation with that weird combinationof surprises and inexorable logic that you only seem to find in thebest sci-fi and horror films. (Without going too deep intodetails -- they wouldn't exactly be spoilers, since they comprise thebulk of the plot, but part of Moon's appeal is the careful wayit doles out the details of its disturbing story -- Rockwell learns helikely only has a few days left to live.)

After coming to like Rockwell's sweet, slightly addled character, it'simpossible not to be sucked in to the gross psychology of his fate.Moon is that rare and excellent piece of science fiction wherethe emotional arc is just as important as the science. With abrilliant lead and a masterful plot progression, it's not just a greatgenre movie, it's one of the year's best.

Grade: A-