Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Release Movies: Source Code (2011)

Cheesy Poster
Source Code is the latest film from director Duncan Jones, better known to some as Zowie Bowie. It follows up from his great first effort Moon, which was a low-budget but brutal story about Sam Rockwell on...well on the moon. He has made use of an increased budget to cast a couple of good names, Jake Gyllenhaal being the biggest. He is supported by Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga in the title roles. The film, like Moon, is another semi science-fiction job, having many futuristic ideas but staying well in the modern world or near future.

J: I don't mind seeing Michelle Monaghan in movies and Jake is quickly catching Clive Owen for my man crush.  Decent enough cast and well directed.

The story of Source Code revolves around Jake Gyllenhaal's character Colter Stevens, who suddenly wakes up on a train heading to Chicago, halfway in the middle of a conversation with Christina (Michelle Monaghan). As he catches a glimpse of his reflection in the window, he rushes to the bathroom, and upon seeing himself in the mirror realises that he is in another body, that of school teacher Sean. Soon after the train explodes, and he wakes up gasping in his original body.

"Oh crap..."
Colter, not knowing where he is or what is happening, is strapped into a seat in a small dark chamber, with a screen showing Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) at an unknown location. It's from here that we learn Colter is a helicopter pilot in the US Army serving in Afghanistan, and his last memory is being on a mission there. Goodwin informs him that he is in the "source code," a program which allows him to relieve the last 8 minutes of someones life. In this case it's the teacher Sean, who was on a train bombed by a terrorist merely hours ago. Using the source code, it's up to Colter to find the bomb, discover who was behind it, and prevent a larger attack on the city itself, all while discovering information about his location by delving into the machinations of Goodwin and the people at Beleaguered Castle. Whew.

Strapped in.
The film moves along at a very quick pace, and as we are following Colter, who hasn't got much of an idea about what is happening, there is very little back-story. I found this actually helped the film, as using the 8-minute idea, the story flows very quickly and unfolds slightly more each time he jumps into the source code. Using 8-minutes as a plot device was a very original and intriguing idea. The film is engaging to watch, and held my attention throughout the admittedly short 80 minute run time.

You might think that repeating 8 minutes over and over could be an excuse to reuse shots and dialogue, but thankfully Jones has managed to change camera angles and use other tricks like slow motion to keep the same parts of the film different. This is well supported by the actors. Although Jake Gyllenhaal essentially does something different each time, credit goes to Michelle Monaghan and the others on the train for acting the same each jump but subtly different depending on Colter's actions. Gyllenhaal himself delivers a solid performance as a freaked-out but likable military type, out to do the right thing.

Locating the bomb.
While Source Code was filmed on a budget of $32 million, miserly by Hollywood standard, it seems to be a lot higher. Obviously the use of minimal sets helped, as it meant more money could be put into the explosions, which occur pretty frequently as you might guess. It all looks slick and has the feel of a higher budget action blockbuster. The score is also pretty epic, and also has that blockbuster feel to it.

The movie is not without its flaws however. The run time of 80 minutes is short and really is over before you know it. A couple of times in the middle it skips showing us the source code while Colter's in there, and this could have been elaborated upon. Paradoxically, the film is short but the ending feels too long, and without spoiling it, it's pretty disappointing. For better or worse though, it does leave you scratching your head. As good as most of the acting is, Jeffrey Wright gets in there and hams it up as the mad scientist type, creating a pretty cringe-worthy character.

I really didn't like the ending.  I was with the flick the whole way through but then when the ending hit I was extremely disappointed.  But not really enough to stop me from watching it again.

All in all, the original story, slick fast-paced directing, and solid acting all come together to form a great sci-fi action flick. The flaws are pretty easily forgotten when you realise you have been taken on an entertaining romp, and as such I give Source Code 7.5 "Jake Gyllenhaal's stubble" out of 10.

Well summed up Tommy D.  I really enjoyed it too.  Jake is solid in this and as mentioned above, the repeating scene doesn't seem to repeat at all.  A very clever idea and extremely well implemented.  7 out of 10 for me.

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