Thursday, November 3, 2011

Source Code

Duncan Jones is now two for two with science fiction films that are well made and visually appealing, have intriguing concepts, and are entertaining to watch reach their conclusions. Although Jake Gyllenhaal's central performance isn't as gripping as Sam Rockwell's in Moon, which pretty much had to carry the entire film, he's good enough to lead a film that I otherwise thought was a little better in most other areas. When I first saw the trailer for Source Code, it seemed like a silly idea. They seemed to be depicting the main idea as a simulation of the last eight minutes of a train ride before it blew up, not actually altering events but observing them to figure out what happened. Gyllenhall's inability to grasp the concept of being unable to save the already-dead victims made him seem dull. It works a lot better in the actual film, when they lay out that he's actually being repeatedly projected into an alternate universe that the source code creates, rather than basically just watching a static event over and over again. Some bits that don't quite make sense are hand-waved away with simple catchphrases like "genetic mapping" or whatever, and they don't really go into how these parallel realities are actually created. But it's not hard science fiction, and as a way to set up a twisty, exciting thriller, it's more than enough.

I really liked Gyllenhaal's character, a military helicopter pilot who wrestles with trying to grasp the situation he's in, helping with the mission he's been given to help prevent a larger attack, and striving to find a way to save the train passengers, especially the girl played by Michelle Monaghan that he sits across from. She doesn't have a lot to work with, being stuck in the same eight minutes of plot as along with the other passengers, but she's cute and likable and pretty easy for Jake to fall for. His attraction contributes to his larger attempt to do more than just solve the attack, something which his handlers tell him he can't do but you become unsure of over time. Vera Farmiga plays his main contact in the real world, an operator who has to balance her duty with her obvious sympathy for his situation, and does a nice job with it. I was less pleased with Jeffrey Wright as the creator of the source code project, who is a bit too obviously evil and uses an odd gravelly voice, but he doesn't damage the film much. The plot has the expected twists and turns, and resolves in a way I quite liked examining angles of the concept in ways I wasn't expecting, and bringing the different story elements to a united conclusion. There's lots of really good imagery in the movie, stuff that seems simple but helps add up to the sort of movie that could have been a lot weaker, but manages to capitalize on its potential quite well. It's too bad that Jones says he only wants to make one more science fiction movie before stopping for a while, because he seems to have a real knack for pulling it off.

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