Film Review No.106: Source Code

No Trailer Park this week for two reasons. 1) There hasn’t really been any interesting film trailers released this week and 2) as you can tell I have a review to write. That review is obviously for Duncan Jones’ Source Code, as indicated by the title up there…^^^. I know, it’s rare that I do a Thursday review but I am because I really needed to play more World Of Warcraft last night after finally getting around to watching the film. Got my priorities all sorted out then as you can tell. So, what did I think of World Of Warcraft… wait, Source Code, that’s what I’m reviewing. Click the link and all that…

So what is Source Code all about. I’ll tell you. A man wakes up on a train in a state of some confusion. He doesn’t believe he is who people think he is. After spending a few minutes trying to figure out what’s going on the train he is on blows up taking him and all the passengers with it. Suddenly this man, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), is awake in some capsule with a woman he doesn’t recognise asking him about the events on the train. A little confusion is cleared up and it appears that Colter has been part of a mission whereby he is to live out the last 8 minutes of the life of a man named Sean Fentress in an attempt to find who it was that set him up the bomb so that he might be stopped before he strikes again. Colter must repeat this task multiple times until the villain’s identity is found, a prospect that is more than a little bit troubling for Colter.

Ever seen Quantum Leap? Of course you have. I’d guess my average reader is about the right age to have joined Sam Beckett on his body swapping, time travelling adventures throughout the 90s. They were awesome. Source Code is very clearly influenced by Quantum Leap, thankfully it doesn’t deny it either. Not to spoil much but if Quantum Leap is Source Code’s daddy then daddy lets his voice be heard, if you catch my drift. I’m saying there’s a nicely done little reference to Quantum Leap in the film. While the premise may not be entirely original, much like Jones’ Moon, it’s the execution that prevents the film from being labelled a clone.

Here's Jake being a little bit bewildered. he does this very well.

Duncan Jones has a knack for proper science fiction. Ever since the release of Star Wars most science fiction in US cinema has been stuck in a rut of space ship battles and alien invasions. Very few do what truly great sci-fi should do and that’s present a core story that anyone can relate to wrapped around a clever variation of the age old question “what if?” I can’t really say what the “what if?” question is here because it would risk ruining a few plot revelations. I’ll try to avoid spoiling too much in this review though because Source Code is one of those films that relies on the first time view being a surprising one.

Joining the often bewildered looking Jake Gyllenhaal on his adventure is another passenger on the train called Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Christina is a friend of the real Sean Fentress. Naturally she’s the romantic interest for Colter who finds himself being more drawn to her the more often he heads back into the titular source code. How do you develop a love story when one of the participants is only experiencing 8 minutes of the relationship? By making sure she’s ready to get her smooch on with good old chesty Jake to begin with. Well the guy who’s body he’s in anyway. Basically it means that, for the ladies that like this sort of thing, we’re just waiting on that perfect kiss. The effect is that the viewer, and more likely the producers, get their romance sub-plot and all the director has to do is condense it down to it’s most pure components and time it just right.

Now Jake is being a little more focused, but not obsessive yet. He is quite cold though. He does cold very well.

That 8 minute time limit is also a very clever tool. See in screen-writing there’s a general rule that you should hook your audience in the first 10 minutes. You can do this a number of ways. By staging a well crafted and gripping character introduction, such as the opening of Inglourious Basterds. By hitting us with a crazy cool action sequence, such as in every James Bond and Indiana Jones film. Well the first 3 Indiana Jones films at least. Or, as Source Code does, by telling you nothing and letting the confusion of the opening scenes hook you in. Source code is paced brilliantly well and it’s largely thanks to this 8 minute structure for each trip back into the body of Sean Fentress. It allows for a concentrated burst of either action or mystery and then a breather period between each for a more concentrated development of Colter’s character as it pieces together the facts behind how he is in this situation when the last thing he remembers is being a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. By the time the film gets to its final act we’re so invested in Colter that you’re not sure you want him to go back in for that last trip, and then Duncan Jones drags it out as long as possible just to make sure you’re as hooked to the finale as you can be.

Duncan Jones is fast becoming one of my favourite sci-fi directors. He seems to remember exactly what it was that made sci-fi fantastic years back. His last film, Moon, was a great story that felt like it came straight from an episode of The Outer Limits. There’s been a bit of a resurrection of proper sci-fi in recent years and hopefully Jones isn’t gonna move on to anything too far away from the genre he’s been showing some real skill in just yet. Basically I want more of this quality of sci-fi please. I look forward to seeing whatever it is he does next.

And now Jake is obsessed. Probably because he's trying to blot Bubble Boy out of his head again.

Source Code is a tight 90 minutes of action thriller sci-fi fun. It has Jake Gyllenhaal doing his bewildered/determined thing. It has explosions, well technically one explosion multiple times, but it’s a good explosion. The passengers on the train may fall into a who’s who of typical passengers but they’re not exactly there to be fully fleshed out characters with their own story arcs. Vera Farminga does a good job playing Colter’s link to the outside world, especially in the films final act. She’s our emotional tether to Colter’s plight, and a well portrayed one at that. Source Code is a highly recommended film from me then. Also, go get yourself a copy of Moon. It’ll blow your mind with how excellent it is.


About lvl54spacemonkey

Just a dude who likes movies and games and has delusions of working in one of those industries. Write screenplays and work on short films in my spare time. Most of which never get finished. View all posts by lvl54spacemonkey

3 responses to “Film Review No.106: Source Code

  • benwhite299

    Watched Source Code tonight. Loved it. Haven’t been that engrossed in a film for ages. Doing my own review on it soon. Still haven’t seen Moon but if iit is anything like this, I’ll love that too.

    Thought Source Code could make an interesting TV Show too. I know Quantum Leap is out there already but if you went with the “8 minutes to change somthing” premise each episode, it could be interesting!

    • lvl54spacemonkey

      Moon is an excellent film. A lot more thoughtful in its sci-fi than this film and impressive looking considering it was shot on a tiny set with pretty much no CGI.

      I was thinking about how cool a series based on this would be. it would need to be a different character though and the 8 minutes thing could get tired. I say just make a new Quantum Leap that has better science behind it. Or failing that, Timecop. heh.

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