When I first heard of it, I had initially rejected this film out of hand — it looked like Groundhog Day meets Unstoppable (what did we do before we had Groundhog Day to compare movies to?) — but with Jake Gyllenhaal, who sometimes just plain turns me off. However, enough buzz and recommendations from friends turned my eyes to notice that Duncan Jones directed it, so I plopped into my seat.
I am so glad that I went.
First of all, Source Code is really more like Groundhog Day meets the video game Assassin’s Creed — and it’s this difference that gives Source Code its oomph. If you don’t know Assassin’s Creed, don’t look it up — the surprise made the store more enjoyable to experience. If you do know it, this is far better conceived. What could have been an investigative game of countdown cat and mouse also became a really affecting story about letting go and acceptance and life…and quantum string theory.
And that’s why it’s good. That, and Gyllenhaal dug into his box of tools and brought out my favorite one, the one he used in Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac — his genuine smile. When Jake smiles, I believe in him, even if his character is fake-smiling while his mind works furiously or his heart breaks. It’s like magic.
Gyllenhaal’s two acting partners (with an assist from the esteemed Jeffrey Wright) are the warm Perfect Girl Michelle Monaghan and human robot Vera Farmiga. Farmiga’s first few lines sound almost totally electronic — but by the end she had be blubbering to give her a hug. That’s a huge arc since Farmiga as a rule shuts me totally down cold, so I applaud her Goodwin. It’s OK for Monaghan to be almost one-dimensional and a symbol of a full person — we only get eight minutes of her life from someone else’s first-time perspective. (This is also why I avoid speed dating.) She’s warm and lovable and that’s all that we and Gyllenhaal’s character need.
The film is cool and tense when it needs to be and warm and human when it needs to be. This balance of tone, as well as juggling of a somewhat complex construct, is handled by none of the than up and coming awesome director Duncan Jones (Moon). If you haven’t seen Moon yet (and why not? I told you to already!) get it, right away. Source Code is a more than worthy sophomore outing, and I for one look forward to more of Jones’ work.
As in Moon, Source Code takes a simple preview-level premise (stop the train bombing by repeating time!) and adds a whole other movie worth of metaphysical and philosophical content without ever making the story feel crowded or secondary, or making the “deep stuff” hokey or half-assed. Maybe this is his gimmick (see: early, excellent M. Night Shyamalan and Christopher Nolen) or maybe he’s just gotten the scripts that other people would have screwed up, but Jones has a way to make the esoteric populist without dumbing down.
Source Code is a worthy film; check it out.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/1/11
Time in minutes 94
Director Duncan Jones
Studio Summit Entertainment