Source Code Review
by Bret Dorman
Two years ago Duncan Jones directed a low budget sci-fi movie called Moon and basically the entire movie reviewing community went nuts. Here was an interesting take on a fresh idea. With an emphasis on minimalism, Moon made the most out of what it had. Now, with a bigger budget and another fresh idea, can Duncan Jones replicate that and go from one-hit indie darling to bona-fide autuer?
Story: Jake Gyllenhaal is more or less sent into a computer program that models itself on the last 8 minutes of someone’s life, in this case, a train passenger who has been blown up. His mission: Find the bomber. Along the way he falls for Michelle Monaghan. can he bend the rules of logic, time, and space to save her as well?
It’s hard to talk about this movie without going into spoilers. Just the nature of a script like Source Code. So to answer the question I proposed in the preface section… no. Source Code does not Replicate Moon. In fact, Source Code replicates a plot-hole-ridden straight to syfy channel movie more than a thing man’s sci-fi.
Okay, before I get right into it, let me first start off by saying I am not one to nitpick every movie for ‘plot holes’ or question why a character does one thing when I would have done another. Because I believe every movie takes a certain level of disbelief and I’m there to enjoy myself, go for a ride. Not critique every minute decision.
However, watching Source Code all I could do was think “this makes no sense.”
My biggest problem? The fact that this is, in a way, a military or military like operation, yet Jake Gyllenhaal is given one directive. Find the bomber. Given his state of confusion and constant pleas for help, they do nothing and say “There’s no time!” and send him back in where he proceeds to just goof around for 8 minutes. All this reall is, is just the screenwriter wasting more time and the movie trying to be more clever than it is. If you thrrow your character in a confusin situation, it is NOT clever to just deny him and the audience information (most of which we get from the preview anyhow) that later you just give him without justifying why it was ‘so secret’ to begin with. Not clever. Just annoying.
Also, Jake is going into a computer program. How can he change anything? How can his character not realize this? If the argument is everytime he goes into the source code an entire new parallel universe is created, then that means everytime he went back in, thousands of people died (assuming the bomber was not caught and went through with part two). Also, in his universe he has taken over the other guys body, essentially killing him (you could argue he was a dead man anyway…). But either way the movie does not deal with these issues. It brings them up last minute as poor loose ends. The first half of this movie is wasted on a main character who doesn’t know what he’s doing and doing it poorly. Can you picture this guy as a military man? I couldn’t…
As corny as it sounds, I actually would have preferred the ‘studio ending’. To end on the ‘freeze frame’ shot, an ending that ends in death, but a moment of death that’s more about the celebration of life, forever frozen in Jake’s mind. Instead, the ending we have seems to only raise more questions on a plot level while bringing up the aforementioned philosophical ones. However its not like the movie is a big build up, it just sort of throws them in last minute.
The last piece of this puzzle that doesn’t seem to fit in Jeffrey Wright. I think he’s as a great an actor as much as the next movie reviewer, but in here he seems to be playing a tongue-in-cheek mad scientist version of his role while everyone else plays it straight (which fits with the tone of the movie).
Jake and Michelle are nice to look at, but the chemistry just isn’t quite there. Their flirting is surface level at best. The only character I connected with was Vera Farmiga, who I like more and more. In fact, as Jake pleads for a final chance at the end, its Vera’s performance I am moved by the most. The entire movie she is restricted by how much she can help Jake and her decision to give him that final chance is the movies best scene.
The way the movie uses the recall stories to jog Jake’s memory and its use of technology is well done. I loved the reveal of Vera’s communication with Jake… via text. In a way it dehumanized Jake’s performance (in a good way though?), but humanized Vera’s.
In conclusion, Source Code raises questions out of nowhere at the very last minute and drags out plot points far too long for no reason other than to seem smarter than it is.
Duncan Jones has the technical skills to shoot an engaging movie and a good sense of rhythm, but I hope he can mature beyond gimmicky sci-fi and doesn’t get stereotyped into making ‘plot-twisty for the sake of plot-twist’ sort of scripts.
Final Grade: C-