I saw Source Code last week. Here are the deets:
Released April 1, 2011 (very appropriate date)
Written by Ben Ripley
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright
* * *
There is suspension of disbelief, and then there is suspension of disbelief. And while this film is science fiction and is very effectively executed in nearly every way, there is a fundamental issue at the heart of the film that makes it actually kind of frustrating.
We begin with Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) waking up on a Chicago commuter train. He is confused by his surroundings, the apparent fact that the woman across from him knows him, and how he got from Afghanistan where he was piloting a helicopter in a battle, last he remembers.
After 8 minutes of frantic confusion, an explosion blows everyone to smithereens and Colter wakes up in what is clearly, to those who know what it looks like, the cockpit of an attack chopper. But he can’t get out or see out and then Goodwin (Farmiga) shows up on a monitor screen. She sort of explains that he is, for all intents and purposes, possessing a fellow for the last 8 minutes of the fellow’s life. This is happening because of a technology, called Source Code, that allows experts to send one person’s consciousness into the short-term memory of a person who just died.
Apparently, Colter was the perfect candidate at the perfect time to do this. And he must now, in the fellow’s final 8 minutes, find the bomb that blew up the train, then find the fellow who did it and report back to Goodwin all that he learns. They must do this because the train actually blew up and everyone on it is, in fact, dead. More on this later. And the bomber has indicated he has a dirty bomb that will wipe out the greater Chicago area later in the day.
They want to stop the bomber and figure this is the best way.
CSI units, Bones, and detectives the world over, now begin to shudder at the thought of losing their jobs to Source Code folks.
So that’s the pretense of the movie.
And obviously, the science isn’t only fiction; it’s preposterous. Because Colter not only lives out his host’s last 8 minutes repeatedly, he also gets OFF THE TRAIN during a couple 8-minute segments. And his interactions with the individuals in his host’s short-term memory of 8 minutes differ significantly from his host’s original actions.
Add to that the ludicrous ending, and wow. The science stretches suspension nearly past its breaking point.
But it doesn’t fully destroy the suspension of disbelief if you are willing to have some mercy and allow for the infinite possibilities of the human brain’s untapped potential. If you allow for that, you can swallow the film’s overall gimmick.
All that said, the fact that Colter can essentially do whatever he wants in this 8-minute world without real consequence, but then … the ending- it just gets far too farfetched sometimes.
Helpfully, Michelle Monaghan does a nice job. Although, again, she is the love interest because she is smart, caring, lovely and is her host’s supposedly platonic friend. And Vera Farmiga: how can you not love her? She’s just so good. Jeffrey Wright does a fair job as the eccentric scientist running the show, as well, which is disappointing because I think he’s really good in most of what he does.
But Jake Gyllenhaal. Sometimes I just wonder how this fellow keeps getting work. Granted, I didn’t see Brokeback Mountain (honestly because I’m not a fan of Proulx) so I don’t know if his work in that was any good. And he was satisfactory in October Sky. And Prince of Persia, well, let’s not go there. Hey, he tries hard, but he’s just always… Jake Gyllenhaal. His characters are different, but transparent and you can always see him. And he’s kind of… well… boring.
Also, is he hiding an unsightly scar with the ever-present lengthy stubble? Seriously now. Every movie except for Jarhead, although he’s got stubble in that one. Does his agent always make sure Gyllenhaal gets to avoid shaving for movies?
It really bothered me in this film. Colter Stevens is an Air Force pilot. I don’t care how long you’ve been in Afghanistan, you’re in the Armed Forces and you freaking well stay clean-shaven.
All in all, with all that being said, the movie is entertaining. Its effects are good, the acting (mostly) is passable, and the tension, despite being preposterous when you think about it, is surprisingly engaging. You feel smarter than nearly everyone in the movie, but that’s life these days.
For parents and others concerned: No nudity or sexuality, very little profanity, some grim violence and plenty of intensity.
I can only give this film 1 pen for writing. But then there are 3.5 cameras. Which yields about 2.5 screens. It’s worth seeing at a matinee price.
(Pens represent writing, cameras represent acting, and screens are a combination of all the film’s elements)