Sam Rockwell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sam Bell in Moon.
Sam Rockwell is an actor with a style that is all his own and I would say that makes him a rather perfect choice for a one man show. Moon is mostly a one man show, even though there are some other actors who make very brief appearances, but on the station itself it is only Rockwell and an Artificial Intelligence voiced by Kevin Spacey. Rockwell though is an actor easy to watch for the entire duration of the film as you are at least guaranteed a Rockwellian moment or two which tends to be entertaining. Early on though Rockwell seems to be playing a fairly restrained part for him as he just seems to be playing a lonely man who must do a thankless job alone while wishing he was back on earth with his wife and away from the minutiae that is required for the various tasks he needs to do.
Rockwell is very effective in these subdued moments realizing honestly the boredom of the task that Sam has. Although he is doing work on the moon Rockwell shows every task that Sam handles as just a thing he has to do and there is no wonderment to be had despite where he is. Rockwell establishes Sam incredibly well in these early scenes as he presents the somber mood in the man with just the right hint of optimism whenever he thinks about seeing his wife and child again after his contract ends which he believes will be soon. Rockwell also does well to present a certain physical deterioration in his tired and altogether burnt out demeanor. Rockwell handles this particularly well because at first it seem that it probably is just from being on the Moon for too long, but with that he also sets up properly what really is going wrong with Sam which is revealed later.
A twist comes in the form of another Sam who discovers the other Sam who had an accident with one of the Moon Rovers. Neither of the Sam's are hallucinating but rather they find out that they are both clones who are simply being used by the company as disposable workers for the company. This new Sam is quite a bit different from the old Sam and Rockwell does a fantastic job in creating two separation between the two. What Rockwell shows with the new Sam is probably how the old Sam was when he believed that he had just started the job. Rockwell plays this part with a clear stronger enthusiasm through the character as the new Sam technically has just come to life. This Sam obviously is far more ready for the needs of the job than the old job, and we see him as a man prepared to handle his assignment opposed to the old Sam who just wants to retire.
Rockwell goes even further with distinguishing though the two than just simply from their differing amount of time in existence. Rockwell also effectively does create two separate feeling personalities in the two well still making the two seem the same man in the core. One of the major factors for this is suggested by Rockwell frankly to their knowledge of being a clone. The new Sam has learned this basically from his creation whereas the Old Sam has had to live for almost three years thinking he was a normal man all along. This leads them onto two different paths as men as well as with dealing their situation. With the old Sam Rockwell presents a more reflective man who must face this revelation for all its pain. Rockwell is very poignant in showing the depression that grows in this Sam who frankly has lived too long thinking he was a man to be told that he wasn't.
The new Sam on the other hand is shown by Rockwell to take a far more aggressive approach in regards to dealing with being a clone. This Sam wants to action quickly and intends to try hard to find out where exactly it is that the new clones are made from. At the same time this Sam is far quicker to anger especially when the old Sam in the way of finding where the secret room may be. Rockwell plays the aggression perfectly as he does not play at if the new Sam is need in some anger management. No instead Rockwell suggests it through the reaction of the cloning problem for the new Sam. The new Sam seems less openly troubled by it, but actually Rockwell alludes to all this anger stemming from his own reaction to the cloning even though unlike the other Sam he is able to take his response and try to pull it into doing something constructive.
One of the best aspects of Rockwell's performance is actually his chemistry with himself and even though there is only one Sam Rockwell it feels like a two man show. The two Sam's are always distinct characters in Rockwell's hands in through doing that he honestly creates an very interesting dynamic between the two. It is particularly complex one as a man technically is interacting with himself and Rockwell does technically have some of the same qualities between the two as he should but where they differ makes their interactions all the more interesting to watch. Rockwell is effortlessly in making it seem like two clones believably dealing with each other in their conflicts which does not play as just Rockwell yelling at himself. It's much more interesting with Rockwell attuning the intensity of each to their different state of minds from their time as clones.
What is amazing is that Rockwell, despite the strangeness of the whole prospect, honestly creates a very natural bond that slowly builds as the two try to find out a way to try and beat the horrible system that they have been placed in my their deceitful company. Rockwell is incredibly moving by realizing the friendship between the two so delicately as the old Sam wastes away, and the new Sam slowly begins to care more and more for his old clone. This whole concept could have just seemed silly or played purely for laughs but that's not the case as Rockwell gives such a surprising about of heart to his performances. Rockwell actually does get some humor out of the concept to be sure, but he does it extremely well by letting it come out in such a genuine way from the reactions the two clones have throughout their time together.
Everything about Moon might not have worked if it was not for the devoted performance by Sam Rockwell who manages to give two great performances in this film as both the Old and the New Sam. Although it can easily be said that it is seems like a pretty flamboyant idea for an actor to play two roles particularly if it is Sam Rockwell in that role and had Rockwell been that way in this film certainly probably would have been entertaining to be sure. Rockwell dials it back here considerably and it pays off in spades giving not one but two poignant portraits of a man who discovers that his whole existence is a lie. I know I've already given four fives so far in my reviews of 2009, and that's because I loved all of those performances. All I can say is I loved this performance too.