Source Code

1 May

Title: Source Code
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Duncan Jones
Writer: Ben Ripley
Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Russell Peters
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, some violence including disturbing images, and for language
Runtime: 
93 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
90%

I had incredibly high hopes for Source Code from the very beginning. I mean, this was after all the sophomore effort from Duncan Jones, who had absolutely stunned me with his terrific debut, Moon, two years ago. Moon showed us that this guy, who happens to be the son of David Bowie, was a director with a truly unique vision, capable of making compelling films and getting spectacular performances from his actors, like he got from Sam Rockwell on his debut. Now on Source Code he gets his first stab at a considerable budget (Moon was made for about $5 million while this one was made for $32 millon) and continues his job at establishing himself as a guy who can get to the human side of any story, and creates a sci-fi thriller that will rock audiences worldwide.

Seriosuly, this is a very smart film, one that in the midst of all the mystery and action involved in it manages to find a huge amount of heart, and in that in Jake Gyllenhaal finds its perfect leading man. One that shows Mr. Jones was no one-hit-wonder and that all the promise he showed with Moon was more than worth the hype, he’s the sort of the director than can handle a story and a budget like this for a studio, while giving the film a huge amount of intelligence and a fantastic rhythm, and making it purely entertaining at the same time.

Part of the greatness of Moon obviously came from it being a very intimate and personal film, one that focussed pretty much for its entirety on Mr. Rockwell’s character and what he went through. Source Code isn’t as personal a story, and that notion, added to the fact that this one came with more special effects and the aforementioned bigger budget had me thinking that maybe this one would throw Mr. Jones a bit off his balance. However, even though this one obviously isn’t as understated as Moon was, they do share quite a few characteristics in common, it’s focus is no longer set on just one person and the huge visual effects make it less of a meditative and slow experience for the viewer, but it’s still a truly unique and immersive vision we get here, and the result is ultimately just as engrossing.

The plot is pretty special and original. Written by Ben Ripley on his first feature film writing gig, the story’s pretty confusing and there are quite a lot of really nifty twists and sequences that I won’t spoil for you here because I would ruin the movie for you, I’ll only touch base on what you would be able to gather if you saw the trailer. Mr. Gyllenhaal plays Colter, a helicopter pilot who suddenly finds himself waking up on a train opposite a woman who keeps calling him Sean, and eight minutes after that a bomb goes off and the whole train explodes with it. Colter then wakes up in some sort of chamber where, through a computer screen, Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin, played by the great Vera Farmiga, explains to him that he’s going into the body of Sean, a man who was on a train that exploded, and that he will be able to live out and play out as he wishes that last eight minutes of Sean’s life as many time as it takes him to find out who planted the bomb on that train.

Pretty different plot than what you’re used to, huh? That’s what makes Source Code so cool, this very unique idea that a physicist, played by Jeffrey Wright, has effectively developed a source code program that has to do with quantum physics and that will enable to send a person into an alternate version of a past event. That’s really all that we get for an explanation, I think the film didn’t delve more on specifics because it would a) sound ludicrously impossible and b) we would lose our interest. And that’s just as fine, because I don’t care how impossible a concept may be so long as the explanation sounds somewhat plausible and the result is as mindblowing and interesting as it is here.

It’s all very nicely done here, the film is much more of an action movie than Moon was, but the existential questions are very much present in both. I mean, the philosophical issues that Sam Rockwell’s character in Moon went through in all his identity crisis are still here. Yes, the bomb here is the actual trouble that will make the movie more commercial and whatnot, and Mr. Jones obviously still pays mind to that and the pace of film is thrilling and succeeds extraordinarily, but he also doesn’t shy away from the more existential issues in it.

And then there’s also the romantic side to the film. You see, the woman who sits in front of Colter (or Sean) everytime he wakes up is Christina and is played by Michelle Monaghan, who’s a seriously beautiful actress who just so happens can act quite well too. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with Christina, Ms. Monaghan is so damn likable that you never doubt that Colter was able to fall in love with a woman in 8-minute spurts. However, the problem is that the train has indeed exploded, Colter is going back to find out who did it but it’s not as though he can stop it and change time, so Christina is already dead.

Source Code is really pretty extraordinary, it has in Mr. Gyllenhaal and Ms. Monaghan two actors that do a sensational job at playing their characters, embodying them with the perfect levels of familiarity and gravitas to make us both warm up to them as quickly as we have to and to believe them and care for them like crazy to really feel for their trouble. And yes, the ending is kind of polarizing, I will concede to that, but this was all handled so damn well by Mr. Jones that you really have to admire the guy, a director that has a niche for telling smart stories with serious underlying questions in his films, a very much needed auteur in the world of contemporary science-fiction who’s now batting two-for-two. Here’s to him keeping that streak alive.

Grade: A-

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