Plot: A downed helicopter pilot is thrust into a revolutionary machine known as the ‘source code’, allowing him to re-live the final 8 minutes of another man’s life in order to figure out who bombed the train he was on before it happens again. However, things become complicated when he falls for a doomed brunette who sits across from him.
My Thoughts: The long since fleeting science fiction genre has been populated with nothing but muck and filth as of late, stamps labelled Bay, Emmerich and Strause dominating the market with their awful schmaltzy visual effects extravaganzas. So imagine my surprise when in the dark depths of 2009 (a year which sprouted not one but two excellently original sci-fi flicks) a small independent feature sprouted its beautiful head, manifesting as Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’. ‘Moon’ worked primarily as a mood piece, an almost artistic drama, playing well off of the loneliness and isolation of the moon and its vague and unsettling dullness. Sam Rockwell was stunning in the lead role, a performance which truly clamped hold of the script and really needed to be good, but was so much better.
Fast forward to 2011, and several terrible sci-fi pictures later we have Jones’ second effort, the terrifically titled ‘Source Code’. Personally, I had been interested in this project for quite a while before it was first advertised, I managed to get ahold of an early draft script way back last July (2010) and was very impressed with the pace and originality of the writing. However, I did find a few faults within Ben Ripley’s scribblings, his true vision not really bouncing off the page. This meaning I was even more satisfied with the finished product, all of my insecurities with the script had been aptly cleared up without a single issue to complain about, ‘Source Code’ truly is a flawless movie.
Primarily due to the genre of his second effort, ‘Source Code’ is likely to be compared to Jones’ ‘Moon’, but I cannot stress enough the difference between these two. Although both are fantastic science fiction pictures, one is a film (Moon) and the other is a movie (Source Code). To those still unsure, I personally define a film as a more artistic observation, a more sensitive emotional play almost. A movie is a slightly more blockbuster-style entertainment piece. ‘Source Code’ works perfectly as a movie, and although its heavy mythology is constantly picked up on throughout the script (Ripley’s build up is to be highly praised) it exists primarily to entertain and to thrill and definitely not to connect you emotionally with the characters, there’s simply not enough development to do this successfully. Luckily, Jones made the correct decision and played the script for what it was, beautifully bringing the rather difficult material to the screen in vivid detail, without giving too much away. He strikes the balance wonderfully.
Of course a good movie cannot exist without a good leading man, and so step forward Jake Gyllenhaal, love him or hate him, he is simply one of the best and most talented young actors working today. Having dabbled between hearty dramas and explosive blockbusters, it’s nice to see Gyllenhaal finally slip into something which he truly belongs in, his portrayal of confused army captain Colter Stevens is nothing short of tremendous, echoing his confusion and smugness amazingly. Heavy support is put up by the ever-gorgeous Michelle Monaghan, taking on Stevens’ love interest, the mysteriously doomed Christina, a performance so sweet and repetitively coy, it plays beautifully off of Gyllenhaal’s one-man-army attribute. Vera Farmiga slides in another spot-on performance in recent years, as Goodwin, a straight-laced warm-hearted controller of the source code machine and Jeffrey Wright almost lands a rather triumphant attempt at genius, his truly inspired Dr. Rutledge (creator of the source code) is mostly a joy to hear at least, his slightly cheesy and off-beat tone belonging definitely in the depths of another movie out there, just not this one. There are some decent, yet slightly back-handed one-liner roles thrown in for good measure, the casting needing to be praised as the supposably single-minded travelers truly felt united and real.
Overall ‘Source Code’ exists as a simply fun and oddly complicated mixture of thrilling mystery and clever story-telling. Although the story may take a few dark turns here and there, it’s a mostly light-hearted tale. Jones’ careful touch clearly worked well on Ripley’s originally scruffy script; his tonal shift has resulted in a much more enjoyable and thoughtful movie. It’s clever without being too complex (the plot can be explained in minutes) and fun without being too frothy, a terrific blend of likable characters, thrilling plot-lines and thoughtful scripting.
In short, it’s a charmingly enjoyable cross between the more arty and snidely clever ‘Run Lola Run’ and the shamelessly over-dramatic ‘Flightplan’.