Thursday, 14 April 2011

Source Code (dir. Duncan Jones, 2011)


Source Code
is the second feature from promising British talent Duncan Jones, who amazed audiences and critics two years ago with not only one of the most exciting debuts in cinema history but one of the finest examples of contemporary science fiction. That film of course, was Moon starring Sam Rockwell. Now like any new successful artist, the second album or film in this case is always a hard step to take, expectations after all have been raised.

Jones was looking to follow up his debut with his dream project at first, the Berlin set Blade Runner-esque Mute, such an elaborate second film however had to be put on hold when the financing simply did not materialise. It was time once again for him to prove his worth as a film director and so along came Source Code; a tight science fiction thriller with an interesting concept, penned by Ben Ripley and already with Jake Gyllanhaal attached to star.

The honest truth about Source Code is that its synopsis reads like something audiences have seen before; a soldier from the future is sent back into another man's body in the last 8 minutes of his life on a mission to foil a terrorist attack which will in turn stop a future bombing. In the film, if he fails at his mission he is simply sent back again to try over and over again until he's done it much to the same effect as Groundhog Day. It is hard not to think of Bruce Willis in Terry Gilliam's brilliant Twelve Monkeys or Denzel Washington in the more recent De Ja Vu.
What unfolds in Source Code however, is a film that takes its cues from cinema history but takes a new direction entirely. Just like Moon wasn't a rehash of Tarkovski's Solaris, neither is Source Code. It is a fully functional sci-fi thriller that connects on an emotional level while never forgetting to entertain as well as developing its thought provoking concept.

Jones has stated that he took a lot of influence from the great Alfred Hitchcock when approaching this film and it is easy to spot shades of 'The Master of Suspense' here. Jones keeps the stakes high but the mood light, the narrative streamlined and efficient but smartly revealed. He is in complete control of letting us enjoy the story but never indulging us with too much information; the timing of the plot's 'reveals' are beautifully placed and keep the story compelling. In true Hitchcock fashion the film's plot ends up being somewhat of a McGuffin, only there to lay path to the darker more philosophic elements that lay dormant until the third act.

Jake Gyllenhaal fulfils his role as the leading man; completely believable as the hero of the day, his big blue eyes widening in the films emotional scenes as well as delivering much of his lines with that Cary Grant like twinkle to add to the film's more playful side.
With Source Code being very much concerned with altered states/realities, what we get is a strange melding of Donnie Darko spliced with Strangers on a Train. Moon was also interested with similar themes, Gyllenhaal's character Colter Stevens is also spoken to in a cold distant manor just as Sam Rockwell was, this time by Source Code's well formed supporting cast of Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. Michelle Monaghan is also included as the love interest of the story, the women who Colter falls for after getting to know her over and over in the same 8 minutes of her life.


Director Duncan Jones is going two for two now. Whatever this man plans to do next is surely worth getting excited for. Source Code is a film that will not only make you sweat and tense up but one that will you think, weep, and laugh. It fires on all cylinders and succeeds on every account. Here is a perfectly constructed, intelligent sci-fi thriller that fulfils more than its poor ad campaign is promising .It may not have the hype of Inception surrounding it but it is damn near as good, if not on a slightly smaller scale.

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