Source Code: film reviewPosted: April 2, 2011
Source Code follows Moon (2009) as the second feature film from director Duncan Jones, and he already seems to be developing a distinct directorial style. There are many recurring themes: an isolated man strangely incarcerated in a place and a time that continues to remain undefinable, and plot twists that seem to be revealed earlier than expected. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, who is repeatedly reincarnated onto a train within the body of a teacher called Sean, sitting opposite his co-worker Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Each time he appears at the same point to live out the last 8 minutes of the man’s life, as he wishes, in order to identify a bomber who earlier that day caused the train to explode. Science-fiction thrillers seem to be a hot hybrid genre in cinema at the moment, but what is particularly alluring about Jones’ films are the dark undertones that scatter periodically to rattle the audience and the central character without offering any clear solutions. Although not quite as disturbing as his debut feature Source Code offers up similar questions about preserving human identity versus human indispensability, and considers the moral high ground when one man is exploited for the sake of the greater good.
It has been compared to Quantum Leap and Twelve Monkeys; this film seems to have taken inspiration from a variety of different narratives, but like Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (1995) which was directly based on Chris Marker’s short film La Jetée (1962) the director makes it his own. Still within the wake of the worldwide hit Inception, “you never really remember the beginning of a dream do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on” audiences are ready for big blockbusters playing with the conscious and the subconscious, and feeding us misleading plot structures, but Jones still manages to engage us in a little paranoia, putting this film not quite on a par with some of it sci-fi predecessors but on the same playing field.
It is a good performance from Gyllenhaal but his character and the situation he finds himself in does not reverberate with you once you’ve left the cinema as it did after viewing Sam Rockwell in Moon. If you want entertainment with a bit of an edge I would definitely recommend it, Source Code has some amazing effects including slowed down explosions, and there is humour and even a little romance to lighten the tension, at $35 million, it came in at seven times the cost of Moon, and for that money you get a little taste of Hollywood. However, if you’re yet to see Moon, and you want a real taste of sci-fi thriller, then I would say that this remains as Duncan Jones at his best.