Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
Running Time: 93 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi | Drama
LOST in translation...
Every year there comes a film that appears to follow a specific design that s exact for my tastes. It’s almost as if one day after a criminally long day at college I got an unsuspecting phone call from Hollywood and the fat cats at the top read off a check list of things I wanted to see. Directed by Duncan “Moon” Jones? Awesome! Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan? Badass! Deals heavily with string theory and metaphysics? You’re talking my language! Is emotionally shattering in its potency? ... pass the tissues! Truth be told, Source Code is a wonderful film, dealing with Phillip K. Dick like quandaries such as “what is humanity” and “why is Jake Gyllenhaal so pretty?”; ok so maybe I made that one up. Its piece de resistance however is the way Duncan Jones decides to film it - reminiscent of early Hitchcock, it’s a staggering continuation on his debut film, showing that their real promise in the Bowie bloodline.
Jake Gyllenhaal headlines this sci-fi time-travel thriller directed by Moon's Duncan Jones from a script by Ben Ripley and Billy Ray. A bomb explodes on a Chicago train, derailing the locomotive and killing hundreds. In an attempt to identify the bomber and prevent another, larger attack on downtown Chicago, Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) agrees to take part in a clandestine government experiment dubbed "Source Code," which allows him to enter the body of a male passenger during the eight minutes before the man is killed. But during his first trip back, Capt. Stevens fails to gather enough clues to prevent the second attack. With time quickly running out, he repeats the mission ad nauseam in a desperate race to head off one of the most deadly terrorist attacks ever to take place on American soil.
The story is reminiscent of any great Sci-fi yarn, it relies heavily on old clichés but much like its predecessor “Moon” is improves the formula greatly. Several films and television shows over the last few years have played around with string theory, most notably for me “LOST”, and while it’s unfair to hold a 90 minute movie against the depth of a 6 season television show, Source Code does a fantastic job at selling you on its world and the people who inhabit it. Last year’s sci-fi marvel “Inception” was a stunning treat in the structure of a movie, while dealing with similar themes. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, Source Code perfects it. If you found the human connection to be absent in the labyrinth that was “Inception” fear not. Newcomer screenwriter Ben Ripley weaves plenty of humanity and soul into this action thriller; to the point where even if the action wasn’t tight and exhilarating - you would still be engrossed in a wholly engaging story. It’s not a simple plot, with twists and turns that can throw you off at any point; but stick with it and be ready to delve some time into discussing the beautifully ambiguous ending and you’ll be rewarded a hundredfold.
If Duncan Jones keeps this up, pretty soon we’ll be referring to his dad David Bowie and - “Duncan Jones’ dad” in all honesty his direction makes the film for me. Its tight, expert and fresh in a world of Michael Bays and Jonathan Liebesman. Here a guy who isn’t afraid to spend time developing character and creating a puzzle for us to solve. It comes off as a pleasant surprise then that of all the things, the mystery of who bombed the train is almost an afterthought. Forget what the trailer has told you; this film goes far deeper than that. Hats off to the guy for creating something wholly consuming and complex all the while being emotionally charged. With this and “Moon” under his belt; he’s sure to be considered one of our brightest rising stars.
What’s not to love about Jake Gyllenhal? He’s proven to us that he is one of the most diverse actors working today. Ever since “Donnie Darko” his film career has blossomed into something where he’s basically become a stamp of quality. He’s wonderful here - he plays the role with conviction and buckets of emotion, what’s refreshing however is the copious amounts of human brought to the table. Suffice to say Michelle Monahan’s role isn’t as extensive as I would have liked it to be but regardless she shines as always. The real star is Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) who takes part in the film’s most pivotal scene, and provides much of the emotional release for the audience. Terrific romantic chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, and expert acting across the board spells success for Jones and co.
It’s a beautiful film to behold, with visual cues to Hitchcock and the likes scattered in every nook and cranny. The CG is never excessive to the point where it becomes a blockbuster but in all fairness it succeeds just fine without it. The score is especially moving and effective although it’s a shame there wasn’t more of it. At times it feels as if the sound guy went out for a cigarette break and missed the climax of the film. In all fairness, this is a minor complaint.
Verdict: Groundhog Day for a post- 9/11 world. With buckets of emotion and character to boot. What’s refreshing is that Jones has crafted a film about humanity, and the question? How far will our humanity take us? In doing so the film is every bit about these people as it is about this bomb ; even more so perhaps - Screenwriting teachers will tell you that if you don't hook your audience in the first 10 minutes, you've lost them for the full two hours. Director Duncan Jones and writer Ben Ripley have crafted a thriller that does it in only eight.
+ It has the mark of a master craftsman
+ The action and the chemistry between leads only adds to the already humongous emotional grasp the film has on you.
+ The story is well thought out, interesting and compelling.
+ Its as much a character piece as a Sci-Fi thriller.
+ Its visually stimulating.
- I felt as if the fantastic score could have been a bit more noticeable.