Thursday 28 July 2011

Today's Review: Source Code

Source Code is an interesting movie. I saw it at the cinema, but didn't do a review of it then for some reason. It's a shame, because I had a lot of issues with the movie that I couldn't seem to remember after watching it a second time. Maybe it's because I had some expectations of what it was going to be the first time that didn't exist once I knew what was going on, so maybe giving it another watch was a good thing.

Source Code follows a helicopter pilot named Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up on a train, but the woman across from him seems to think he's someone else. A bit strange, because last thing he knew he was flying a tour in Afghanistan. He doesn't get too much time to ponder the situation though, as within a few minutes the train explodes and he wakes up in a crashed helicopter. There he receives a transmission from a Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who tells him he needs to go back in and find out who the bomber is.

So after a few more run throughs of the same situation, each ending in certain blasty doom, we learn that Stevens is apparently a candidate for participation in a project known as Source Code. The train in question actually blew up that morning, but the technology being used for Stevens allows him to take over the memory of one of the victims and explore the surroundings in order to identify the terrorist in order to prevent another attack later that day. Sound confusing? Well, it kind of is.

You see, Source Code is never explained too much. We only really hear about it through the often inane ramblings of Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), the man in charge of the program. Basically there's something special about our hero that allows him to infiltrate the afterglow left by the brain that retains the last eight minutes of life, and that allows Stevens to relive events of the past in an alternate reality. Somehow. If you want more of a description of how it works you'll be disappointed, you just have to accept that that's the way it is.

But in this case it's not really a bad thing. We don't need to know the complicated science behind Source Code because we're too busy concentrating on figuring out who is bombing this damn train. Also with Stevens' relationship with the woman across from him, Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Basically the same eight minutes are relived again and again, each time with Stevens screwing something up or actually getting closer to solving the mystery. The best way I can describe Source Code is basically Groundhog Day with a bomb. On a train. Each time Stevens gets a little better, but his mission won't end until he gets it right.

It's really a movie trying to work on two levels. Much like The Adjustment Bureau, it's a love story but with a sci-fi twist. Not only that, but there's a certain amount of thriller in there, what with the bomb and terrorists and everything. So there's a lot to keep track of, but Source Code is a nicely paced movie that doesn't let you forget about the other plot elements while it's trying to progress another.

Source Code is not without its flaws though. There seem to be a few too many loose ends at the end of the movie. Perhaps they're setting it up for a sequel, although I don't see what they'd do in that, but the end of the movie really seems like it shouldn't be the end, I was looking for a little extra to end it all nicely. There are a couple of things throughout that don't really go anywhere either. While the main plotline of the bomb ties itself up quite nicely and efficiently (perhaps a little too efficiently), there's a point in which Stevens learns that he is inside a program, and proceeds to pull some kind of mind trick to make his cockpit slightly larger. But that's it. It seemed like he could maybe do more, but it never really goes anywhere.

Source Code is a pretty original movie though. While it seems to borrow from a few other genres, it's managed to pull them all together into something quite different. There may be some loose ends here and there, but the bulk of the movie is a well crafted thriller with quite a good love story throughout as well. While I may not remember some of the points I had against Source Code, one of them was the fact that I'd liked to have seen a bit more added on to the end, and if one of my complaints is that I didn't get enough then that's no bad thing. Source Code is by no means a perfect movie, but it's certainly something different, and quite refreshing.

My rating: 4/5

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