Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Source Code (2011)


Overall Score: 7.75/10

You wake up and you're a different man. The woman in front of you is a stranger who's known this you for time untold. The people around you are completely different from the world you know. You panic, you sweat, you flea. And when you reach a breaking point, boom. All of the sudden you're yourself again. But something's still not right. You're trapped in a box. On the camera is another woman you don't know, but this one knows the real you. The situation is the same, but different. Two woman, two you's, two completely different lives. Welcome to the Source Code.

Despite what it would have you believe, Source Code is not a thriller. Sure there's the running, the chasing, and the battle with time. But that's all a cover. Source Code is really all about one very specific thing. Life, and how far we're willing to go to salvage it when pushed beyond the confines of death.

As many have pointed out, Source Code is basically Deja Vu, Groundhog's Day, and Twelve Monkeys tossed into a blender; and yet it manages comes out clean on the other side. Its persistent optimism, high sci-fi undertones, and challenging questions on identity and fulfillment give it an air of freshness that even the most hardened of film goers will intake happily.

By those standards, Source Code thrives. With minute changes on each go-around it avoids the redundant atmosphere Vantage Point buried itself under. As well, Source Code also utilizes the 'actual' world, outside the restrictive the focal program, to give audiences another layer of tension and characters to interrogate and seek refuge in.

For a second outing, Duncan Jones plays it safe and smart, despite the ominous presence of Dunkin' Donuts (who I could have sworn were behind it all). The plot keeps things rolling, inviting new details to entice the viewer, but always acknowledging the characters and the science fiction first. As mysteries go, Source Code's is a rather tame one. No big twists, limited ideology, and even less big shock moments. It is those characters that we grow to know and appreciate that provides us the drive to see them prosper. Where many writers would put their idea at the forefront of any mystery, Ben Ripley intelligently makes it more about the surrounding events and people. The Source Code world is always secondary, and justly so.

Yet, there is one character that is disturbingly absent from the entire affair - Sean. The body to which Jake Gyllenhaal's Colter Stevens now owns while inside the Source Code. Very early on we are brushed aside on any emotional connection as Goodwin (Farmiga) promptly tells us "for this mission he is irrelevant." However, as Source Code travels down the slippery path between reality and imaginary, he becomes an element of collateral damage. By the end, many of us would be hard pressed to know he existed at all. Especially given the film's strong stance of ignorance with respect to him.

A minor detail in some eyes, but I can't help but feel that we have been deprived some crucial detail of character development. All we know of him is a name and profession. Beyond that he is a zombie. An empty vessel, and the lack of any care or attention towards him leads me to call into question the saleability of the film's ending. While it wouldn't be the greatest of endings in any other circumstance, I do feel it could have considerably benefited from some exposition on the man.

But Source Code does an excellent job of blinding that. By playing up our central character's emotional transformation, we care more for him than we would ever bother to care about the elusive Sean. We come to love Colter Stevens for his heart, his care, and the manner by which he comes to view the world. He, in essence, becomes our vessel. Yet, he is one to which we share the world, and for that we feel a deeper emotional kindred.

Thus becomes the tale of Source Code. For those seeking only thrills, Source Code is not the path you should take. For those who want the thrills mixed in with something a bit more, Source Code is without a doubt a destination you'll enjoy the journey to. Besides, who can turn down two hours of solid Michelle Monaghan and Jeffrey Wright lighting up the screen?

Film Credits:
Directed By: Duncan Jones
Written By: Ben Ripley

5 better thoughts:

Lime(tte) said...

This sounds like a film I'd like.
You said it's not a thriller, but a film about life - that's not a genre, though, right? :) So is it a drama, or something like that?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I enjoyed it as well. At first I wondered how they were going to keep those eight minutes fresh, but they did.

Castor said...

Sounds like a good one, I might check it out this week if I have nothing to do (yea right, the taxman is waiting...)

Univarn said...

@Lime The reason I say that is it's not a thriller in the modern sense. It's not weighed down and obsessed with making everything this huge intricate mystery packed with layers and the like. There are quite a few thrills, but I would call it more of a Drama-Mystery with thriller leanings.

@AlexJ They did a good job by tackling something different each time and keeping the eight minutes inside new each time. The best thing they did though: limit the eight minutes to only being about a half of the overall film.

@Castor Advantages of knowing accountants who can deal with that stuff.

Dan O. said...

The premise is taken from other films, and the script isn’t that good but somehow Jones just makes this such a suspenseful movie and you have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’m also glad to hear that he may be taking over “The Wolverine” project. Sweet. Good Review!

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