January 28, 2009 / 1:22 AM / 10 years ago

"Moon" a well-assembled sci-fi thriller

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Sci-fi converges with present calamities, namely the energy plight, in “Moon.” Sony Pictures Classics should mine solid box office from select sites, but this well-made generic science fiction, which bowed at the Sundance festival, will orbit most assuredly on DVD.

Cloned smartly from trusted story forms, “Moon” converges a frontier saga with an escape mechanism. On the far side of the moon, lone miner Sam (Sam Rockwell) trudges to the end of his three-year stint for a mega-corporation that has hit a gold vein by harvesting lunar rock for energy.

With only a self-mechanized robot (whose only human feature is a Happy Face/Sad Face component) for company, Sam shows signs of cabin fever. Hallucinating and obsessing about his wife and daughter on Earth, his fragile condition deteriorates, exacerbated when he gets whacked on the noggin as he crashes his rover on the lunar surface.

Sam emerges from his grog to find an aggressive version of himself tromping around the space vehicle. Hallucination? Clone? Doppelganger?

Screenwriter Nathan Parker capably splices generic sci-fi components with a Big Brother fixture in this well-wrought, modular entertainment. Nonetheless, “Moon” is darkened by its own excellencies: The white, claustrophobic look is apt and moody, but a lack of physical action enervates the story thrust.

Despite that, though, Parker’s sharp, individualistic dialogue is a quantum leap above the usual sci-fi drivel and should engage those who usually mock the genre as nerd stuff.

Rockwell is adept at limning his character’s dissolution but lacks the audacious, dominant edge to charge his clone/doppelganger to its scariest dimension. Kevin Spacey’s mellifluous vocalization of the robot is eerie and soothing in a Keyser Soze sort of way.

Under Duncan Jones’ kinetic direction, “Moon” also shines on the production front: Cinematographer Gary Shaw’s shaded shots intensify the drama, and Clint Mansell’s music heightens the psycho-scape.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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