Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Russell Peters, Michael Arden
Director: Duncan Jones
Writer(s): Ben Ripley
Cinematography: Don Burgess
Original Score: Chris Bacon
Running Time: 93 Mins.
This week brought us two films dealing with alternate realities, ever a popular sci-fi theme, and in the face of Inception’s phenomenal success (both critical and box office) it is hardly a surprise. Inception was a film that managed the seemingly impossible, an intelligent and thought-provoking big budget blockbuster that has paved the way for more like it and if Source Code is anything to go by we have yet another thing to thank Nolan for as Source Code further paves the way for (hopefully) a new line in something more than just mere spectacle. In fact all this is enough to forgive Hollywood for the release of that other alternate reality film of the week, Sucker Punch.
Everything Snyder’s film lacked (or never had!) is made up for here and then some in the second film from Duncan Jones, Jones marked himself out as a talent to watch with Moon a couple of years ago and it is hardly surprising the son of David Bowie has his cemented his forte in sci-fi. Moon was a little underwhelming for me in all honesty, I could see his intention was good and ambition high, Sam Rockwell turned in a great performance and the film had a melancholy yet quirky air but still retained a touch of Hollywood. Source Code mines much closer to Hollywood, the budget here is infinitely higher than Moon‘s and it shows to excellent effect in an explosion that we see from a great many angles.
The effects and hike in budget are simply the cherry on the cake though and the film builds its very strong and hugely entertaining foundations on a solid story and great acting (unlike Sucker Punch). The trick to sci-fi is grounding it in a semblance of reality, Jones does this effortlessly (or seemingly so) and uses a groundhog day narrative that befits his story perfectly, Gyllenhaal is Colter Stevens an ex-army vet just returned from Afghanistan (or is he?) sent back in time (or is it time travel?) to try and discover who has set a bomb on a train, this presents many questions as you may well imagine as the plot yo-yo’s between the 8 minutes Colter has upon each time he is sent back and his confusion as to why it is happening from the “pod” that he uses in communicating with Vera Farmiga’s Colleeen and Jeffrey Wright on bad guy duty as Dr. Rutledge…creator of the technology.
The beauty of Source Code is that ultimately this is territory that as been explored before, the “go back in time to try and save a life” scenario was used in Deja Vu to entertaining but hardly ground-breaking effect, similarly Source Code is entertaining but also thought provoking after you over-come the hurdle of total confusion at not quite knowing what is going on (that’s a good thing by the way!). The element of mystery never lets up until the end, slowly throwing up answers along with more questions, both in the “real world” and in “past time”, intrigue is a winning staple for a film, but intrigue coupled with a tone that is serious but not taking itself seriously is the gold standard.
It doesn’t end there, Gyllenhaal is always great but has seemed to find himself one step away from superstardom after every role. Prince of Persia should have done it for him but still he is just one iota away from the goal, this is good for us as it means he has also escaped the stigma of type-casting, between Persia, Love and Other Drugs and Brothers he had proved his mettle at tackling whatever came his way. The one constant is his likeability, something which helps make chemistry an ever-present thing, here it is Monaghan and Farmiga, both are capable in their own right but again they place their characters in the realm of realism balanced with entertainment…in fact only Wright is anything more, hamming it up just enough to give the film a slight streak of pantomime villainy, heck he even walks with a limp and has an OTT accent.
Source Code proves Duncan Jones has built on what he crafted in Moon, crafting an engaging, thought-provoking and ultimately entertaining sci-fi thriller, add to this yet another winning performance by Gyllenhaal and we have a winning film that shows Inception doesn’t have the monopoly on intelligent blockbusters.