Source Code

The much anticipated Source Code opened today. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright, the film straddles, or encompasses a number of genres. First and foremost, would be the ‘Thriller’ category. There are no chases, and despite the fact that there is a hand gun in play, this film will never fit the mold for films that do have gun play. Instead, we will call this one a race against time, and yes, it has its thrilling moments.
As the film begins, we’ll see some nice views of Chicago, all shot from a helicopter. But we keep returning to some shots of a commuter train heading towards Chicago. It is on this train where we first meet Gyllenhaal’s character Colter Stevens.  He’s been dozing, and when he wakes up, he seems to not know why he is on a train, or even, where the train is. Imagine his confusion when the woman sitting opposite him calls him Sean, and seems familiar with him. Is it a case of mistaken identity, or is it a case of amnesia?
We don’t know, and neither does Gyllenhaal. He’s just a tad confused. So let’s add in ‘Mystery’ to the growing list of genre categories.  Director Duncan Jones, along with his writer, Ben Ripley, have done a superb job of keep us just as mystified as Colter Stevens. But eventually, the circumstances of traveling on this train are changed drastically.

This is the cue for Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright to make their first appearances. They will clear up the mystery to a degree, and slowly at that by introducing the ‘Science Fiction’ elements of the film. Farmiga plays Colleen Goodwin, an Air Force officer, and Gyllenhaal’s controller. Wright plays Dr. Rutledge, who is Goodwin’s boss. He has the task of explaining the hardware, as well as the mission. It is best if you just let this information simply flow over you. Try not to think too long or too hard about what you’ve  heard. We should not be concerned about how this infernal machinery works or the logic of it.

About now, as you are watching, you will have just about all you need to know about what’s going on. There’s an element yet to come and we’ll call it romance. 

Okay, that leaves me to make some comments so that this bunch of bytes might actually be a review in fact. The four leads do a reasonable job. But that comes with a caveat. None of the leads are require to show a wide range of moods. They’re all kind of one-dimensional.

As for the villains – we have some faux-villains who come and go rather quickly. When we finally do meet the real bad guy,  he’s definitely bland, he’s hardly menacing, and what’s more, he hardly puts up a fight. Another comment would be that Gyllenhaal’s Stevens seemingly finds what he needs to find rather easily. Too easily. Of course he gets lots of opportunities, and ‘second chances’ galore. 

The camera work is nothing special but what can you expect when 75 % of the film occurs in a single railroad car. There’s also an over dependence on closeups. Just because we are in a small space, doesn’t mean the camera has to be on top of the actors. Beyond that, the special effects weren’t particularly special either. 

Finally, the ending is somewhat disappointing. It was like suddenly deciding to turn your socks inside out. Not a total surprise, but I felt let down by it.

Source Code is entertaining and is thrilling. It has it’s moments when you do grip your arm-rests or sit on the edge of your seats. But the plot device tempers the story – in effect it is less thrilling than the trailers will lead you to believe. A good effort at best. 

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