[Movie Review] Source Code
I remember going to see Moon back in 2009, and despite being utterly blown away by Sam Rockwell, I also remember thinking how astounding the film was as a directorial debut for Duncan Jones (also known as David Bowie’s son). I thought it was downright wrong that Moon wasn’t up for any Oscars this year, but apparently no one kissed the right arses.
Anyway. I saw the trailer for Source Code a couple of weeks ago and I wasn’t entirely convinced, not least due to the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal, an actor I’ve never been able to warm to. Still, I had a spare Saturday night and the very fact Source Code was a Duncan Jones film was enough to spur me to go. Thank God I did.
Source Code is, quite bluntly, fantastic. Blurring the lines between traditional “working against the clock to beat the bad guy” thrillers and science fiction, Source Code takes equal parts of quantum mechanics, time travel, and the threat of terrorism and ends up with intelligence and explosions. See, Michael Bay? It CAN be done.
Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot who fought in Afghanistan, and who now finds himself as part of a government project. The Source Code allows him to be projected into the last eight minutes of a person’s life – in this case, that of Sean Fentress, a teacher who is killed in a bomb blast on a train. Colter wakes up as Sean, and is charged with the task of discovering the identity of the bomber before he can strike again. Every time the eight minutes runs out, Colter wakes up in his capsule, and has to report to Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), before being sent back to relive the eight minutes.
It all sounds a little Groundhog Day, and naturally while Colter has the knowledge gained in each of his eight minute bursts to try something different next time, the people around him on the train are none the wiser, and believe him to be Sean. Colter is initially torn between wanting to find the bomber, and wanting information from those running the Source Code project. This parallel between his internal dilemma, and external mission, set up a constant source of tension – not least between Colter and his handlers. The fact that Colter, the mere practitioner, ends up understanding Source Code better than its inventor is a wry comment on our veneration of those who conceive new technology over those who learn to use it. Add to that the romantic subplot which sees Colter seek to save Christina (Michelle Monaghan), a woman he meets on the train, and you have three plot threads that Jones balances like a seasoned professional.
It’s a tense film, and Gyllenhall proves to be a compelling hero. It’s the kind of role I could almost imagine Matt Damon playing, except he’d probably get frustrated as there isn’t much cause for him to run around. Farmiga is also excellent as the conflicted captain, torn between doing her duty and obeying her conscience. The script by Ben Ripley is intelligent without being convoluted, and despite its reliance on quantum mechanics, still retains a human feel. Then again, like Moon did before it, Source Code manages to put a very human face onto science fiction. Christopher Nolan tried to make science fiction thrillers big news with Inception, and Source Code expands and improves the idea by not relying on set pieces.
All I can really say in closing is that Source Code has made Duncan Jones my new favourite director – and rekindled my interest in science fiction. Five out of five!