Movie Review: “Source Code” – The Rise and Rise of Duncan Jones

“Source Code” (***)

When everyone was out making their “most anticipated 2011” lists, I was the lone person who was not frothing at the mouth for more Duncan Jones. I liked Moon. I thought it was a really interesting piece… maybe just not what I was wanting to see that night. I couldn’t deny it was well done, but I really came away obsessed with Sam Rockwell, not the director.

Then I happened on a trailer that looked awful. The movie looked so terrible, I was considering boycotting it on principle. Source Code? He’s in a computer? I’m still thinking about all of the ways it could’ve gone wrong. But Duncan Jones, in my opinion, made an exceptionally tight, unique, vibrant, and vital movie. This film is why people go to the movies. This should be what films strive to be like. A good sci-fi/fantasy film doesn’t need to be a $150 million visual effects free-for-all like the admittedly wonderful Inception or the universally reviled Alice in Wonderland. There can be a really good mid budget film that looks well done. And honestly Joe Movie Producer, that’s what’s going to rake in the dinero. I digress…

The concept of Source Code is surprisingly easy to get, once you just accept you’re seeing a science FICTION movie (I’m looking at you message board trolls!) Cpt. Colter Stevens, as played by the surprisingly clothed Jake Gyllenhaal, relives 8 minutes of another man’s life over and over again until he figures out the bomber on a train. Things get a little more complex when you think about it too hard, but the simple answer is anytime you see “Jake’s on a Train”, it’s actually all computer code. Stevens tries lots of different things including beating people up, making out with Michelle Monaghan, and beating people up. Only some of these tactics work. However, while the audience is always invested in who the bomber on the train is, it actually fades deeper into memory as you find yourself suddenly caring for this guy more and his plight, not the passengers on the train. This is accomplished through Gyllenhaal’s really strong performance. He plays things so super-hero-ish and testosterone-filled that it becomes completely believable.

And there’s not a single link in the main cast of 5 people. Michelle Monaghan’s not my favorite, but is she anyone’s? And Jeffrey Wright is also decent. Vera Farmiga also takes a role that is essentially a talking head, and humanizes it at every turn. She truly elevates the material to something better.

The film continues to shine in it’s technical elements. The sound design was so thorough, balancing a score that was better than necessary with its controlled chaos, great train sound effects, and a lot whispered and confusing dialogue that never got swallowed. Perhaps the most important member of the team was the editor. Not only was he doing his job in balancing the complex structure – always letting the audience know where they were between the realities¬†– but also in driving the action. My heart was actually pounding. I’m talking total focus heart-pounding. And there’s no big flashy car chases, just well done story telling. Most importantly the gimmick never gets old. So Bravo Paul Hirsch (it’s the same guy that edited the two good Star Wars!)

Clothed Intensity.

Part of keeping the gimmick new and fresh should also be credited to Duncan Jones’ marvelous direction and Ben Ripley’s original script.

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Part of why the whole 8 minutes thing worked was because each time it was different. Each alternate universe had it’s own motivations and it’s own drive. For instance, in some the object is locate bomb. In others, it’s contact my father. In the last alternate universe that takes place inside a computer he finds true love and rides off into the sunset. There are many who complain that this ending is weak, however it’s really just a mirage. A heaven like scenario, because none of it’s happening. It all exists within the Source Code. And no, Ben Ripley did not end the movie with the fantastic freeze and execs made him change it. It’s all there in the script. I’m not sure I loved it, but I definitely get it.

Go see Source Code… Again. I am now officially excited for whatever Duncan Jones does next. Except that it’s Wolverine…

P.S. Did you get it? It rhymes with “Snakes on a Plane”.

 

 

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