Monday, August 08, 2011

Source Code Deviates From the Program.

Source Code

It is never wise to proclaim a director a genius after just one film. Personally I like to see three or four films from a particular director to truly get a gauge on the extent of their talents. Having said that, it does not take long to spot potential for greatness, and that is what director Duncan Jones has an abundance of...potential.

Jones talents first appeared in his debut film, Moon, and it is on display again in his slightly more accessible follow-up film, Source Code. The plot focuses on a decorated army helicopter pilot, Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who takes part in an experimental military program known as the Source Code. Created by Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) and conducted with the assistance of Capt. Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), the Source Code is a device that allows Stevens to go into the body of another man during the last minutes of his life to solve the mysterious bombing of a passenger train. Given only eight minutes to solve the crime, Stevens must relieve the same events over and over again until his mission is complete. Unfortunately Steven’s objective becomes blurred when he begins to fall for Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), a passenger on the ill-fated train.

While more commercially accessible than Duncan Jone’s debut film, Source Code is a well crafted film that is far smarter than the trailers lead you to believe. In short, this is how high concept blockbusters should be done. Jones has found a creative way to make familiar themes of duty, morality, and isolation feel fresh and interesting again. Unlike Moon, which falters in the last act, Source Code manages to get better. Is it too accessible? Some may feel so. Though I do not see how Jones could make it any denser and still maintain its commercial appeal.


The performances in the film are very good across the board. After sleepwalking through the Prince of Persia film, Jake Gyllenhaal seems invigorated again. He finally gets a role that really plays to his strengths as an actor. Jeffrey Wright delivers another one of his usually strong performances as the hard-nose scientist though I would have like to see a little more development with his character. The real scene stealer for me in the film was Vera Farmiga. She gives a subtle, but effective performance as Capt. Goodwin. Farmiga perfectly brings out the conflict that Goodwin has between her sense of duty towards the program and her compassion towards Stevens as a person.

Is Source Code better than Moon? To me they are too vastly different beasts altogether. I did not have as many issues with Source Code as I did with the last act of Moon, but I would say that Moon is a far deeper film. Regardless, Source Code is a film that can easily stand on, and should be judged by, its own merits. Duncan Jones has crafted a good film that continues to show his potential to be one of the better directors of this generation.


10 comments:

  1. I have yet to see Moon but I thought the third act of this movie was a bit of a letdown and somewhat unneeded (although the movie would have been 60 minutes long then). As a whole, it doesn't quite fire up on all cylinders for me. I think the concept is too restrained (8 minutes, why not more?) and that limited the movie in terms of creativity.

    Also, how can Stevens fall in love with Monaghan's character in the span of a few minutes? That's not very believable.

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  2. Although I liked both Source Code and Moon I'm skeptical of those who have sung praises for Jones based on these two movies aws I just don't see him as anything more than another young director making entertaining movies. Good as their are, neither of those movies knocked it out of the park and declared a major new talent on the scene. Rather they showed another kid who wants to play the game.

    On that note, I find this movie very enjoyable and do not have any problem with the third act other than that it ended one scene later than it should have.

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  3. I hear you on Jake finding a film which plays to his strengths, and Source Code is definitely a solid sci-fi esque flick even though the logic of it gets a bit ridiculous at times.

    I can't help thinking of it as a twin to The Adjustment Bureau, both of them films dealing with changing destiny and whatnot.

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  4. I enjoyed Source Code, but didn't love it. For one, I thought the actor who played the actual bomber was pretty weak and the character's motivation was pretty bland. On top of that I hated the ending, which I felt made the concept a lot less interesting. Plus the ending is full of holes that I can't get into without spoiling anything.

    On the other hand, I loved Moon, and Source Code feels like a step down by comparison.

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  5. This isn't a perfect film but has some great moments of pure inspiration from director Duncan Jones who makes a seemingly repetitive plot seem fresh and fun even though the ending seems a bit strange. Good Review!

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  6. @Castor - 8 minutes did seem like an odd time. I can only assume that he was sent back so many times that he start to fall for Monagahan.

    @Mike - I think Duncan Jones is a director to definitely watch. He is slowly bringing back the thinking man's sci-fi to mainstream audiences. Having said that, while I see his potential, I agree that people are a little too quick to call him a genius, etc.

    @Andrew - I can see the comparison to The Adjustment Bureau but I think this film was far more successful. The Adjustment Bureau was too soft on the issue it was trying to raise.

    @pgcooper1939 - I find that a lot of people who absolutely loved Moon were disappointed by Source Code. I will admit that the bomber was the weakest part of the film. Still I found that the film rose above that weak performance.

    @Dan - There are very few films that can pull off repetition well. Usually those films loose their focus by the middle.

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  7. I agree with you this film is a good'un. Not as good as Moon, but also very different.

    I would have preferred it NOT to have the cheesy ending. Lose about 5 mins and we have a true Twilight Zone type story. Hairs standing on end.

    Good review thought matey!

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  8. @Custard - An abrupt Twilight Zone style ending would have worked as well. I can only assume that the studio wanted a softer ending in order to sell the loves story to mainstream audiences.

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  9. Vera Farmiga in this movie has potential in stealing the 'comforting digital yet maternal voice' types of roles from Julianne Moore. Good luck to her.

    I like Source Code over Moon. I don't even mind the sentimental romantic side when Colter finally goes 'beyond his mission.' But that epilogue...

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  10. @Paolo - My wife was not fond of the epilogue either. I did not mind it, though I could see how it would rub some the wrong way. It is definitely a "Hollywood ending".

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