This week sees the release of Jake Gyllenhaal’s head screwing, sci-fi action thriller, Source Code. So, in true Gaudion blog fashion, here is my review of this weeks new release! Source Code is the second film of one Duncan Jones, the son of old Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie, in case you didn’t know!), but more importantly the director of 2009’s amazing indie sci-fi movie, Moon. That movie was one of the most original and atmospheric sci-fi movies of recent years, with Jones showing amazing vision and capabilities as a director, especially considering that Moon was his debut. Unfortunately that movie didn’t do very well, which is a bit of crime really, and how Sam Rockwell wasn’t nominated for an Oscar still baffles me. But I digress, Jones success and future as a director would rest on his next movie. And although Source Code may not have done amazingly (still did fairly decent business considering its quite low-budget), but it more than confirms him as one of the best upcoming sci-fi and action directors around. Solely because he always finds the warmth within any story, even in a genre which can often come across as quite cold.
The story doesn’t leave a lot of room to breath, unfolding at a breakneck pace. Gyllenhaal stars as Captain Colter Stevens, who wakes up onboard a train, not knowing how he got there, with his fellow passenger Christina (Michelle Monaghan) believing him to be someone else. When he discovers that his reflection is not his own, the train explodes. Stevens once again awakens, but this time strapped in a strange capsule. It is soon revealed to him that he is inside what is called The Source Code, an experimental Military virtual reality network which allows one person to enter another mans identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. The reason for this is that Stevens has to find out who planted the bomb on the train in order to prevent a much larger terrorist attack taking place in Chicago. Therefore, Stevens must be subjected to the Source Code numerous times in order to discover the bomber. With time running out, Stevens begins to discover the true nature and capabilities of the Source Code, and what exactly his part in the operation really consists of.
This movie hits Inception levels of complexity, so be warned. There are moments when you believe you’ve grasped the concept and then suddenly a twist will come along which completely changes the foundation of the concept that you have in mind and makes it much more complex. I for one love it when films pull the rug from under your feet and present you with an idea that you didn’t even see coming. This is certainly the case with Source Code. The idea is incredibly well thought out, to the point where you begin to think of it logistically even though in reality it’s absurd. The strongest factor that makes you take the idea seriously is the characters and delivery from the actors. This is where Jones’ strength really lies, finding the human story within, so far, complex material.
The Stevens character is our eyes and ears through the world of Source Code. We know as little as him when he wakes up on the train, and as he discovers more and more, so do we. His reactions and confusion to what is happening to him makes us as the audience feel as if it’s ok if we get confused now and again, as we have the hope that we’ll understand it once Stevens does. Which, if you’re attentive, you should more than easily do. And Gyllenhaal absolutely sells it. He has a great skill as an actor to appear incredibly human in whatever situation, his easy charm and screen charisma makes him a likeable lead and you easily invest in the character. He also has great compatibility with his co-star Michelle Monaghan as Christine, who is very sweet and helps make the relationship appear very playful and quite intimate, as for both of the characters the relationship is something new and not yet fully explored, and its great fun to watch these two characters running into each other each time in the Source Code reality. Vera Farminga as Goodwin has a great arc to her character, as she goes from a cold and calculated military type to a compassionate soul who ultimately tries to do what is right. Jeffrey Wright has a strange character to portray, presumably the villain of the piece. But his character is too vulnerable and flawed to fit under the generic mad scientist title, in large part thanks to Wright’s performance
It really is to the credit of Jones and his screenwriter Ben Ripley that they manage to keep the human characters at the focus of the story, and even have a great deal of depth to them amongst all the wild physics and theories on display. My only grievance with the story is that the ending really does take some wrapping your head around, these paradoxes always do. But then again, I guess that’s also what makes the film great, it really kicks your brain into gear, as I can imagine this film would be rather hard to pick up again if you happened to leave it running for a couple of minutes whilst you make a cup of tea. So for all it’s twisty sci-fi glory and action thriller pedigree, thankfully, it’s the characters that come out on top as the main point of interest. That’s not to say Jones doesn’t know how to back up a good story, as he creates some scenes of amazing visual flair and genuine tension, making the experience exciting, thought provoking and emotional, amounting to a very satisfying way to spend and hour and a half. Jones is certainly establishing himself as a filmmaker who knows how to thrill an audience, yet also get you to care, and think bloody hard. Nolan, watch your back, there’s a new kid on the block. Ziggy should be proud.
Extras: A fairly standard package, with commentary from Jones, Gyllenhaal and writer Ripley, complete with cast interviews on many aspects of the filmmaking experience. There are also some very interesting features on the physics of the movie and what the reality is for the science presented in the film. Although I found these harder to wrap my head around then the actual film. I’m a film buff, not a physicist! There’s also three trivia tracks to play around with, one focused on time travel, wah hey! Plus, I recommend buying the movie from Play.com and choosing the steelbook case, because it looks really cool and shiny…yeah, I’m definitely not a physicist.