Apr 30, 2011

Review: Source Code

The official SXSW poster for the film by Olly Moss.
Director: Duncan Jones
Release Date: 5 May 
Runtime: 93 mins 
It's all fine and Fanta if you want to put 'FROM THE DIRECTOR OF MOON' on all of the promotional material for a film; this draws in your movie geeks, so that's one market covered.  What probably isn't okay is sticking this label on the film when it becomes a fake proclamation that this will be another Moon. The budget is way higher, the writer (Ben Ripley) is not also the director and Source Code does not exude any of the eerie strangeness that Moon had so much of. 
Fact is, Source Code errs strongly towards the traditional, Hollywood thriller. A clear tracking shot of a crisp autumn day in Chicago opens the film and leads us through the city and across landscapes until we meet the train crossing a bridge and our hero, Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), who's just woken up disoriented and doesn't know where or who he is. Jakey spends the first few minutes on the train talking to fellow passenger Christina (Michelle Monaghan) and trying to figure out how he came to be there: before the train blows up, kabluey!

Captain Stevens wakes up in a visualisation tank in an unspecified military facility and is told he's on a mission: he's being sent into the 'source code' to locate the bomber and stop another, larger, foreshadowed attack. The source code is a program, composed from the last eight minutes of memory before people meet their maker: in this case, one of the passengers from the train that morning, Sean Fentress (Frederick de Grandpre). Colter is Sean, Sean is now Colter. Writer Ripley then faffs out approximately 60 seconds of explantaion on quantum physics which no-one can really understand (but that's okay, right, because the audience figures they shouldn't understand it?). 
The eight-minute cycle repeats as Captain Stevens picks up more clues each time and tests the inner and outer limits of the source code, as well as himself. Colter's commander, Captain Goodwin (the ever-strong Vera Farmiga) attempts to guide him with a sense of compassion not normally associated with a member of high-up government operations, doing the film enormous credit. As we are within the thriller genre, the major twist does turn up eventually. However, the inadequate lack of tension built up until that moment, due to the fact that Gyllenhaal takes being blown up every eight minutes pretty calmly while in the source code, means that the twist kind of just yo-yos back and says 'So what?' in a voice not dissimilar to the Governator's. 
While the humanising elements of the film (Colter's remorse at not talking to his Dad enough and his desire to save passenger Christina) add bonus points, they don't heighten the experience enough to make it much more than a fairly standard, yet entertaining thriller. 

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