Apr 11, 2011

[Movies] Source Code (2011)

Source Code (2011)In these modern money-driven Hollywood times that we live in, it's rather disappointing how the science fiction genre has become predominantly linked to the action genre in terms of movies. Then again, these kinds of movies are more likely to make money across a wider range of audience demographics without overly alienating the majority of the population.

I suppose we can't overly blame them for fearing the more serious side of science fiction - strictly dramatic efforts for movies like The Box make me question if we still have good directors who understand pre-Michael Bay science fiction anymore.

Then you get the occasional dark horse who takes us all for surprise with delightfully thoughtful films like Moon. Now that was a pretty great movie with a startling and brilliant story as brought to life by a pretty impressive actor. This film really put Duncan Jones on the map, at least for me. So naturally I was keen to see what his next big production would be - and I certainly wasn't disappointed with this one.

Source Code is a 2011 science fiction movie that still has its share of action, although it leans more towards the thriller side of the equation. It was directed by Duncan Jones and written by Ben Ripley.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  (L-R) Director Dunca...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeWe start with the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal (go Jakey!). At first he tells us, the audience, and his surprise female companion (Michelle Monaghan) that he is in fact Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot serving a mission in Afghanistan. Instead, he's currently on a train headed for Chicago and Christina (as her name is later revealed to be) knows him as History teacher Sean Fentress. But before he can fully come to grips with what's going on, the train is destroyed in a massive explosion that kills everyone board.

This time, Captain Stevens wakes up in some sort of a harness in a dark metal chamber with a certain Captain Colleen Goodman (Vera Farmiga) trying to rouse him. Her video image then proceeds to explain to him how he is in something known as the Source Code, which allows them to re-examine the last 8 minutes of a person's life by living that person's life in a theoretical setting. The goal - to determine who planted the bomb given the same terrorist has threatened to detonate a nuclear device in downtown Chicago. Thus Captain Steven is sent back into the Source Code over and over until he gets this right - 8 minutes at a time.

Now I know I've made it very clear that I'm a sucker for Jake Gyllenhaal movies since he's both geeky and hot in a nicely endearing way. But beyond such a shallow reason, I really did want to watch this movie given the potential the story presented, my respect for Duncan Jones and my love for more traditional (read: intelligent) science fiction stories. And this movie nicely fit the bill.

Now it's a given that the movie will not explain everything to you in clear detail. No, you will never fully understand what the Source Code is. No, you will not figure out what happens to Sean Fentress whenever he gets supplanted by Colter Stevens takes control of him. No, you will not understand how a civilian could gain access to nuclear technology at home. But all that doesn't matter - instead the brilliance is the fact that good science fiction doesn't have to explain everything since the "science" bits are just a medium necessary for telling the story but are not the focal point of the story.

Let's face it - science fiction movies are littered with "reveals" and "explanations" that we all could have lived without. Did we really need to know why Trinity knew that Neo was the One? Did we have to hear the explanation for the Earth's destruction in 2012? Sometimes the explanations cheapen the end result and distract us from the true message of the movie.

No, we're better off exploring what this whole experience is doing to Colter Stevens. Could you appreciate what it's like to die over and over after a 8-minute extension on life? Can you cultivate any sort of a relationship in so little time? How many lives can you change with a single 8-minute segment of your life? The movie explores a lot of complex issues amidst the lightning fast pacing of the thriller action side of things rather deftly.

And as much as I love Jake, his acting here was decent but nothing overly amazing. If anything, more credit deserves to be sent along to Vera Farmiga, who was tastefully elegant while managing to masterfully display deep emotions without being emotional. It's hard to pull that off, but then given how her career has been going as of late, I'm not surprised by how well she performed here.

Admittedly, the movie is somewhat unforgiving to your average viewer. You need to keep up with the pacing. You need to accept that not everything will be made clear. You need to pick and choose for yourself what may be important and what isn't. And sadly, Jake never takes off his shirt.

But for the rest of us who are starved for some serious science fiction (or at least a movie with an actual plot), this is more than just a breath of fresh air. This is practically a miracle amidst the explosion and CGI-heavy times we live in. True, it's not the best movie ever nor is it perfect, but it's a great film and one that deserves to be watched and then debated about amongst friends together with generous amounts of coffee or beer. Pick your poison and hash it out with your friends - it's not often we find movies that make me want to engage in a conversation like this any more.

Source Code represents signs of life for hard core science fiction movies. It gets 4.5 ways the writer-director team snuck in opportunities for Jake to still be geeky flirty out of a possible 5.



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