Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michelle Monaghan
Duration: 93 mins
Some of the press for Zowie Bowie’s (aka Duncan Jones) Source Code is tagged with the hyperbolic ‘From the visionary director of Moon’. Boy, what in THE hell is the matter with you? Moon looked great, and it had Sam Rockwell and a diamond soundtrack from ex-Pop Will Eat Itself man Clint Mansell. It was also derivative, uneven in tone and lacking the kind of ‘couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards’ ambiguity that turns a good sci-fi movie into a great one. His follow-up opens with numerous helicopter shots of skyscrapers. You may recognise that move from A THOUSAND FILMS ALREADY MADE. Visionary.
With a shirt and tie borrowed from Deckard Blade Runner’s wardrobe, Colter Stevens – yeah, really – wakes up on a Chicago commuter train in the body of an unknown man, apparently engaging with an unknown girl, Christina (Michelle Monaghan). He wanders around confused for a further 8 minutes until the train explodes. Without giving too much away, Colter – yeah, really – discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of that train. A government experiment called the “Source Code” enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life and so begins a sort of Groundhog-Day-with-explosions odyssey as he gets closer and closer to making out with Michelle Monaghan. Oh, and finding that terrorist.
Despite being dumber than Jedward’s Junior Cert. results, Source Code’s strength is that most rudimentary of all filmic qualities: entertainment. I think I’ve established Jones is no PT Anderson, but he’s no Paul WS Anderson either and he can put together a fine techno thriller. Jake Gyllenhaal makes a three-dimensional character out of Colter – yeah, really – whilst being as likeable and charismatic a leading man as we’ve come to expect. It’s a rare treat in action cinema to pause in the middle of a race against time third act for the central character to make a devastating phone call to his father. It shouldn’t work. But it does. And it’s affecting. The Departed’s Vera Farmiga is given the Basil Exposition role as the military head of the programme but still manages to take the character – and the narrative – by the balls in the final 20 minutes and make it more than the sum of its parts. Jeffrey Wright summons the spirit of James Earl Jones in his role as the walking-stick wielding, caramel-voiced genius who wants the Source Code to succeed at all costs. Delivering his tech-heavy lines with a pimp-like Blaxploitation sass, Wright is magnetic, intense and a fucking bad-ass.
As with all time travel nonsense, it’s best not to over think those plot holes. As Jake tries his luck over and over, the pedant may find frustrations in his choices of investigation (i.e. if you find a bomb and you’re kind of an immortal Bill Murray type, then you don’t proceed with caution!), but there’s brisk fun to be had if you go with Source Code’s silly saga. What would have projected it into the four-star category is the same DNA that was also missing from Moon; ambiguity would have allowed it to ascend from ‘decent genre picture’ to ‘outstanding genre picture’. Simply put, it should end five minutes before it does. As the central reality of the whole film (literally) freezes and hangs in the air, there is a stunning ending; one that is begging for the credits to roll and leaves the audience in gawping quietude. But, we un-freeze. And have an open-ended, sequel-friendly conclusion explained to us.
From the ordinary director of Moon…