2009 / Duncan Jones > When it comes to modern science-fiction, there’s nothing worse than predictability. Problematically, science-fiction, in itself, is a derivative art. It takes into effect what’s already around us and extrapolates those objects and ideas into the future. Unfortunately, cinematic conventions are often one of those things. You can argue that much of the last decade’s laziness can be attributed to the endings of The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense. Their success pigeonholed lesser-known directors into formulas that were known to work. This has led to a barrage of films, including many in the science-fiction genre, to become innocuous, even lame.
Once upon a time, someone told me the reason they loved Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was because it infused everything that Chinese cinema had been built on for the last half-century and refined it into one final product. And so enters Duncan Jones, mimicking that approach of Ang Lee and creating Moon as a appreciative hurrah for the genre. In the process, he does one thing very, very well: Playing with expectations. Everytime I thought I knew what was going on, one of two things happened: It didn’t, or it happened immediately instead of at the end as a final twist. Without going into plot details, Sam Rockwell has a run-in with another Sam Rockwell early in the film. Who is the second Sam Rockwell? Even if you think you know, you don’t. And that’s the beauty of it.
Aside from Jones, Rockwell stands out as one of the best performances of the year. He won’t get an Oscar nod, but cultists will appreciate this work for a long time to come. Add in Clint Mansell’s techno-tragic soundtrack and newcomer Gary Shaw’s awesome cinematography, and you have the recipe for one of the best films of 2009.