Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Film Review: Source Code

Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is a test subject of the 'source code' program, a scientific method which can project a subject's consciousness into the past (and another person's body) for a limited period of time. Stevens is tasked with finding out who blew up a commuter train, repeatedly having to live out the last 8-minutes of a passenger's life. Suspicions soon fester when it appears that his handler, Goodwin (Farmiga) and the program's director (Wright) appear not to be all that straightforward with him.

If you think Groundhog Day crossed with Quantum Leap you begin to get an idea of what Source Code is. It is an intelligently structured film which goes over the same eight-minutes repeatedly, each time advancing the plot a little further. It's a dismally beguiling affair as we watch Stevens form a stronger emotional connection with the woman sitting opposite him, Christina (Monoghan), all the while knowing the train's inescapable fait. But Source Code is more than just a tragic love story or a who-dunnit thriller. It is a film about one man's beef with the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics. Indeed, there's enough time travel paradoxes and moebius loop-defying nonsense to make your head spin in the same enjoyable manner that Inception fucked with your subconscious. While the sci-fi parts will work your grey matter, its shocking, unintended horror of an ending reverberates darkly and will raise all sorts of ethical and philosophical questions.

Gyllenhaal is excellent in displaying an immense versatility. From action hero bouncing around a train carriage to romantic softy as he falls for the pretty girl opposite, all the while coming to terms with his own sorrowful circumstances, he remains at home with all the film's many sub-genres. Jeffrey Wright's surreptitious program director adds a hint of melodrama, but it's really Farmiga's Goodwin and Monoghan's Christina who shine. While Goodwin's role appears nothing more than a plot set up, Farmiga's portrayal brings something more as she visibly attempts to prevent her emotions getting in the way of the mission. There is a real sense of a human being underneath the nonchalant persona her military uniform demands. Monoghan conversely emanates an aura one can only be drawn to. Indeed, with each eight-minute loop we gain more empathetic attachment to a woman on the verge of changing her life, making her fate all the more tragic and Gyllenhaal's fight to bend the laws of time that more ingratiating.

Source Code is the sort of film that requires multiple viewings for everything to set in place. It is ambiguous but pointedly so, particularly with its tentative quandary of an ending. What Source Code does brilliantly is to provide you with all the details without announcing them in a fanfare. It is this which, despite spilling into other genres, firmly sets Source Code in the realms of science fiction. It won't spoon-feed you messages like so many movies do. Rather, director Duncan Jones has buried them so deep that when you do discover them it feels accidental, almost as if uncovering something we're not supposed to. And that is the most rewarding thing about Source Code. Perhaps the most gripping eight-minutes you'll see all year.


AP said...

I've heard good things about SC from all corners.

However, having read your review, I feel like I know too much about the shocking 'twist' at the end...which kinda ruins the future viewing experience. :-(

Here's hoping future reviews aren't as spoilerific! :-)

Alekazam said...

What's your theory? I've dedicated about a sentence to it, merely saying it's shocking and will raise questions...

Would love to know what you've drawn from that...