Laws of grav­ity

Di­rected by Dun­can Jones. Star­ring Sam Rockwell, Do­minique McEl­lig­ott, Rosie Shaw, Bene­dict Wong, voice of Kevin Spacey 15A cert, lim release, 97 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

WE DON’T usu­ally look to sci­encefic­tion for nos­tal­gia. But Dun­can Jones’s bril­liantly eerie de­but pos­i­tively buzzes with en­er­gies from ear­lier spec­u­la­tive clas­sics.

Set on a dreary moon­base, within which a lone worker keeps the bolts tight and mends the leaks, this low-bud­get Bri­tish gem ges­tures to­wards So­laris (a brief hal­lu­ci­na­tion), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Gerty, the base’s com­puter, is voiced blankly by Kevin Spacey), Si­lent Run­ning (the open­ing shot spots our hero through a win­dow) and Dark Star (life is just so dull there). But there’s more to it than that. The base and its tech­nol­ogy have the clunky, func­tional look you’d ex­pect to en­counter on an an­tique tug­boat.

Jones largely shuns com­put­er­gen­er­ated im­agery for the sort of model work that en­livened a dozen Gerry An­der­son clas­sics. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, un­like too many con­tem­po­rary fu­tur­is­tic shoot-’emups, Moon ac­tu­ally dares to of­fer us some se­ri­ous in­tel­lec­tual roughage. Be­ware. There are ideas here.

The pic­ture be­gins with Sam Rockwell’s phleg­matic pro­tag­o­nist (also called Sam) go­ing through the te­dious du­ties of his three-year post­ing. Trapped on the satel­lite’s dark side, Sam can­not com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with Earth and must make do with taped mes­sages. Sud­denly, he finds his body go­ing through some pe­cu­liar changes: headaches, vi­sion prob­lems, hal­lu­ci­na­tions. Af­ter crash­ing while driv­ing on the sur­face, he wakes up (or so it seems) feel­ing con­sid­er­ably bet­ter. But the weird­ness has only be­gun.

It would be a shame to spoil the cen­tral con­ceit, but what fol­lows al­lows Rockwell to strain ev­ery act­ing mus­cle as his char­ac­ter en­coun­ters un­wel­come truths about him­self and his mis­sion.

Far from just clock­ing up movie ref­er­ences, Jones uses the hints of 2001 and So­laris to de­lib­er­ately nudge the au­di­ence down some blind al­ley­ways: Gerty sounds a lit­tle like HAL, so we as­sume he must be malev­o­lent. Maybe so, maybe not.

This is not to sug­gest that Moon comes across like a post­mod­ern par­lour game. De­spite all the ram­pag­ing in­ter-tex­tu­al­ity, the film has more heart in its qui­etest sec­ond than you will en­counter in all two and a half, clam­orous hours of Trans­form­ers 2. In­deed, Moon is so im­pres­sive it seems some­what cheap to con­firm that, yes, the di­rec­tor is David Bowie’s son. We prom­ise never to men­tion it again, Dun­can.

DON­ALD CLARKE

Sam Rockwell ex­am­ines some space junk in Moon

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