A pilot crash his landing pod from the Moon in the middle of a forest. He carries a secret with him that could cost him his life…
Twist endings can be tough. Over-reliance on climatic twists is one of the things that turned M. Night Shyamalan from cinema wunderkind into the cautionary tale he is now. He became “the twist ending guy,” and trying to recreated the shocks of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable set Shyamalan up for a serious fall. On the other hand, shows like The Twilight Zone have proven that twists can work really well in a shorter form. They’re like a joke: set it up, punchline, then get out while you’re ahead. The short film Moon Dust is definitely in that category. It’s just long enough to set us up for a clever twist, one very much in the spirit of Rod Serling’s classic anthology series.
Spoiler-y discussion below!
Part of the reason why its brief length works in Moon Dust’s favor is because it raises questions that the film doesn’t really answer, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. The twist obviously hints at a whole world that we don’t get to see — some distant future where, possibly after some catastrophe, mankind has rebuilt civilization at least to the point of being able to stage a two-way voyage to the moon, but they have also forgotten much of their history, including the truth that humans had already been there before. But why, then, does the military dude pop the astronaut in the dome? The most natural assumption is that the powers that be don’t want him revealing the truth about the evidence on the moon, but if that’s the case why does he tell the astronaut, “Everyone will know?” Perhaps he’s a double agent, working within the machinery of the future government but still working to reveal the truth, and maintaining his cover means his friend has to die.
Those sorts of questions are hardly something to condemn the film for, and in fact being left with questions is part of the point with a story like this. It’s also a perfect example of how a story should be precisely the length it needs to be — no shorter, no longer. Sure, a longer form could tell us more about the shape of this future society, and why specifically the evidence from the moon is being hushed up, but those answers might well be less interesting than the ones we ponder in our own minds after the credits roll.
Did I say a good twist is like a joke? Forget that; it’s like a magic trick. The fun part is being fooled, walking out of the theater wondering how they did it. Sure, you could start trying to pick it apart, or just do some Googling to see if somebody’s spilled the beans online. But where’s the fun in that? Not knowing is the best part of all. And if you don’t like it? Hey, it only took four minutes of your life.
Moon Dust was written and directed by Ezequiel Romero.