On a small island, in 1965, a young boy who is a member of the Khakhi Scouts of North America, “Sam” (Jared Gilman) is found missing from his tent during breakfast. He has cut a neat hole in the side of his tent that he covered with a piece of paper, and dug a tunnel to escape from the confines of the Khakhi Scout’s Fort Lebannon. A search is quickly organized by “Scout Master Ward” (Edward Norton), who immediately contacts the island’s head cop “Capt Sharp” (Bruce Willis).
Unbeknown to the searchers, Sam is not the only one who has gone missing. “Suzy” (Kara Hayword)is the daughter of “Mr. Bishop” (Bill Murray) and “Mrs. Bishop” (Frances McDormand), who live in a house on the island somewhat removed from the scout camp. They are both lawyers and raising several children of whom Suzy is the oldest. Suzy has borrowed her brother’s record player and left him a note, promising to return it within ten days.
As Moonrise Kingdom unfolds, we find out a number of things. Sam and Suzy first met the prior summer when he was with his scout unit, camped on the island, and he went to a musical put on by a group in the church. Suzy was a member of the cast and they stayed in touch afterwards via what we refer to today as “snail mail”. They made a plan to escape together. We also learn that Sam is an orphan, lives in a foster home and his foster parents have had enough of the problems he causes and will not take him back. This means that when Sam is finally located, the woman who is known as “Social Services” (the brilliant Tilda Swinton who does her best with a very limited, limiting role) will have to send him to a horrid place.
The journey that Sam and Suzy undertake in Moonrise Kingdom, sometimes while chased, sometimes while being aided by those who chased them, is the adventure of a lifetime for two who are still so young. Love, fear, longing, fulfillment, the gamut of feelings and emotions they experience as they try to find a life that is just theirs simply amazes. The two youngsters who play these roles are either talented beyond their years, or were being directed by someone who knows how to get the most from everyone who wanders within range of their camera’s lens.
Moonrise Kingdom’s famous cast members are also strong, particularly Norton in a role where he finds himself questioning what and who he thinks he is. The writing of Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola takes the viewer along for the ride, engaging them with the story and the players throughout. Few films manage to get me to refrain from checking the time on my watch at least once, but Moonrise Kingdom did just that.