People like mystery stories because of the satisfaction of solving one. Looking for clues, sizing up characters, watching a film competitively; all require active participation from an audience. Source Code, the second feature-length film from Director Duncan Jones, is emblematic of this, with a meandering plot that misleads as often as it reveals. Assuming the pieces are all in place, this is a thoroughly engaging experience, and leads to the cryptic praise of satisfied watchers who want to tell you everything but simply can’t reveal anything, lest the enumerable unveilings be ruined. Despite the film’s shifting moods, Jones has put together a lively action film that serves double-time as an exhausting mind puzzle.
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It took me too long to see Moon, and the Sam Rockwell/Duncan Jones project ended up suffering for it. Though I was able to remark on the genuine craft of the film, the many conversations I had had prior to this viewing gave me all sorts of ideas as to what it probably was or could be. The real problem though is that this seems to be the way the film is set up: to give audiences ahead of time the notion that there will be a grand reveal. But when the film’s grand reveal comes about halfway through, you spend the rest of the time wondering if there’s going to be another one or if the tone of the film has simply shifted for good.
A truly inspired piece of Moon is the photography. The surface of the moon is dark and industrial, set like a beautifully still version of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. And Sam Rockwell’s contribution can’t be understated, as he more or less carries the film from beginning to end.
To get briefly into SPOILERS, ahem-
It turns out that Sam Rockwell is not an individual human man on a solo moon mission, but one of an endless number of clones. Watching two very different versions of the same man bicker and (attempt to) relate, recalls not only Rockwell’s range but some of his better and less notable roles: The Green Mile‘s Wild Bill or Chuck in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He’s as good in Moon as he’s ever been, and that’s saying something. As for Duncan Jones, his first film is certainly a memorable experience and ardently made. If it occasionally lacks thematic cohesion, it’s a good example of filmmaking with heart. And the future? Source Code is next, and we’ll see if it carries any momentum from Duncan Jones’ lead off.
Despite the miscues, Jones and Rockwell seem personally and passionately invested in Moon, and this more than any of its faults is the residue left over at the film’s completion.