This was the case with Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl, Ryan Reynolds in Buried, and most recently Sam Rockwell in Moon. Another film in my long list of movies that I always meant to see but never got around to until now and again things are interesting. Where Moon is different from the previously mentioned films is that it used a visual effect to tell a major part of the story. Mainly that Sam Rockwell played several (two specifically) distinct versions of his character to play off of. This technique is one that is used often these days when dealing with characters who are twins or multiple characters.
The first time I remember this occurring is in The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy playing his character’s entire family with various prosthetics, but since then it has been used in movies like The Matrix, The Social Network, as well as TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville and the recently cancelled Ringer. This can be a really effective technique if used in the right way. It can also go horribly wrong if not done properly. Unfortunately I have seen both in the multitude of films and television that I watch. When it comes to Moon, I think that it is used properly. Through most of the film I had my concerns, but as things progressed I was able to understand why they did it.
And that’s true of things not limited to the use of the doubling visual effect when it comes to this movie. The story centers around the character of Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), a man on a three year contract to harvest the moon’s resources for clean energy that can be used on Earth. One of the main things that bugged me about the film is the idea of a single person on a moon base. If you’re going to put a mining camp on the moon why have only one person running it? This, along with most of my questions about the film, gets answered by the end and I am left generally satisfied with the story as a whole.
What really hits home for me more than anything though is the performance of Rockwell. He manages to make two versions of himself very much distinct in their mannerisms and approaches to the situations they face that you might almost believe they were entirely different people despite their obvious similarities. The only other character to play off is the full on robotic helper droid GERTY, played through voice work by the great Kevin Spacey. And even there Mr. Spacey is able to bring a certain amount of nuance to an inanimate object that has you questioning the robot’s motives much in the way that you did in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This movie is a perfect example of how acting can make or break a film. And in the case of Moon, I definitely think it makes the film.There are many sides to the Moon, which side are you on? I honestly could tell you because they all make such a great case.