Sunday, April 17, 2011

Source Code

Year: 2011
Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright

Plot: Captain Colter Stevens, a US helicopter pilot, wakes up inside a body of another man onboard a train that subsequently blows up. He then learns that he is part of a program called Source Code, which allows him to relive the last eight minutes of that man's life. He is tasked to find out who planted the bomb on the train so that the military can prevent another disaster. And he has to keep on reliving the same eight minutes until he is successful.

Review: Source Code seemed like a great idea for a sci-fi thriller. It's a marriage of Groundhog Day and the famous 80s TV series Quantum Leap. In fact, Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula lends his voice here as Colter's father when they speak on the phone, and it is a fitting nod to the TV show I grew up watching.

I remembered watching Duncan Jones' first effort Moon, and I didn't quite get it at first, but then I realized that it was not just a sci-fi flick, it was a character study. Source Code is nowhere near as deep or complex as Moon, but it is just as fascinating. Jones certainly has a great eye for science fiction as he is capable of connecting with the audience despite using a lot of technical jargon. He skilfully balances the drama with the science fiction side of the film, thereby grounding the story and making it more than just another Starship Troopers or a bad episode of Star Trek.

If you've seen Groundhog Day, or episodes of TV sci-fi shows where the same thing happens repeatedly in the same space of time, then you'll be familiar with what happens here, as Colter keeps seeing the same things over and over. But thankfully, you'll never get tired of it, which is the beauty of the film. As he takes different approaches to the task, different things happen, and in turn we root for him to succeed all the way.

The film moves at a smooth pace and at a short 93 minutes, does not overstay its welcome, and yet manages to deliver a story that is mind blowing and heart breaking at the same time. Kudos to Jones for doing that.

Jake Gyllenhaal is a perfect choice for Colter Stevens as he convincingly conveys his character's varying emotions, from confusion to frustration to sadness and at the end, determination. Big things are in store for him in the near future. Michelle Monaghan plays off of Gyllenhaal well as the love interest who is a passenger on the ill-fated train. Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright round up the cast nicely as the Source Code operators, the former being the sympathetic one and the latter as the one who isn't.

Overall, I had fun with this film, and I wonder what Duncan Jones, the son of the famous David Bowie, will do next. (4/5)

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