Source Code

2 Apr

Director: Duncan Jones (2011)

Captain Colter Stephens (Jake Gyllenhaal) a soldier in Afghanistan has found himself in something of a bind. And by bind I mean he has woken up in the body of a strange on a commuter train bound to Chicago. A commuter train that subsequently proceeds to blow up, killing all the passengers, and will continue to do so until he can figure out who is responsible. How does he do this? Well, thanks to the sci-fi literate directorial mind of Duncan ‘Moon’ Jones, we are presented with an intriguing alternative to police interrogation through the use of Source Codes. This Source Code, managed by the usual team of government type agents who seem to populate the many underground bunkers in the USA, allows a person to inhabit the consciousness of another person during the last 8 minutes of their life.

As Stephens is repeatedly thrown back into the same moment in time, sat opposite the conveniently beautiful female companion, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), and made to relive those final 8 minutes until he can work out where the bomb is and who is the one detonating it… Admittedly, it takes him a few tries. And for me, this is where it does get a little repetitive. Yes, yes, I understand this is an occupational hazard when your film is orchestrated around sending someone back in time to relive 8 minutes, but still… Groundhog Day did it without any problems, but then they had Bill Murray.

I am struggling to convey that I did actually enjoy Source Code but my question is did it deserve the five star accolades it has received across the board? I think my hesitancy is more based on my love of Moon and my desire for Jones to throw us another low-fi, understated thriller – instead we get Hollywood blockbuster. Which is fine… So, to counter any accusations of negativity or that I simply ‘just didn’t understand it’, I will now resort to breaking Source Code down into various components to try and explain this schism.

Story wise, Source Code can’t really be criticised – original and engaging, the concept of breaking down the boundaries between the present and the past is a unique approach to the usual man vs terrorist plot line that plague the modern day thriller. Gyllenhaal is well casted and his role as the traumatised soldier given a new purpose to his otherwise ended life offers a new challenge outside the horrendous depths he seemed to have sunk to in Love and Other Drugs… There are elements that seem a little too twee and but do perhaps evince Jones attempting to allow us to see the external reality outside the Source Code such as using his chance to re-live the 8 minutes to reconnect with his estranged father and also, get a little loving along the way.

This is where my problem lies; the romantic storyline that is placed in amidst the drama and the genuinely exciting action thread. Monaghan is fine, but she is just that, fine, not great and certainly their chemistry did not convince me that Gyllenhaal’s new raison de etre should be to save her. And also, does getting off with a man inhabiting your boyfriend’s consciousness constitute cheating? Who knows…but what I do know is that, in my eyes, the romantic storyline is just too obvious from the start and catapulted Jones’ credibility and a film that showed the potential to continue Moon’s innovation in the sci-fi genre literally to the other side of [the] Moon where each moment kept the audience in suspense unlike Source Code.

Highlights include Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) as Colleen Goodwin, Stephens’ connection to the ‘real’ world in the Source Code bunker… A little part of me wished the romance had been detracted from Christine on the train to Goodwin, using her presence outside the Source Code to establish a relationship beyond commanding officers. But, like I say, only a little part….

In summary, Source Code, good film, not Moon by any stretch of the imagination but then looking at other people’s reception of the film, perhaps my sci-fi cynicism has once again confounded my ability to enjoy a movie on these merits alone… An ideal film to start the slow run up to the summer blockbusters and undoubtedly another huge success for Jones. And a well deserved one. But also one that has left me intrigued to see what his next film will bring, old school or is Source Code proof he has fully enrolled at the new school?

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One Response to “Source Code”

  1. Joachim Boaz May 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    I completely agree with this statement part of your review — “I think my hesitancy is more based on my love of Moon and my desire for Jones to throw us another low-fi, understated thriller.” Alas, so many top-notch directors are seduced by the allure of Hollywood filmmaking — for example, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made The Lives of Others and then, well, some piece of crud called The Tourist…

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