Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Release date: April 1, 2011
Graceful and complex cinema has been a stranger to the bulk of Hollywood productions recently. Long being that elusive beast that promises to resolve all triviality and heighten mediocrity to something astounding when it is adequately attained by a mind that is a true visionary. Inception, the most recent studio picture to attempt such originality, confounded us until our brain cells finally evaporated. We are still trying to gather our wits. But enter director Duncan Jones. He seems to have an artistic ability to present outlandish material in a straightforward manner while keeping our brain cells intact throughout the process. Refinement is what he is after, displaying, through his work, a contemptuous indifference to traditional and conventional norms. We saw hints of such audacity in Jones’ debut film Moon, which isn’t nearly as sophisticated and entertaining as his second feature film Source Code, a film that is proof that Jones’ mind barely senses the lifeless characteristics of conventional cinema. Characteristics, to him, that are ever diminishing.
Mr. Jones may falter here or there on his way to attaining inaccessible heights, but if he goes down he goes down with dignity intact for trying to convince himself and others that there remains a realm of cinema out there that has the potential to neglect repose and simplicity while on his way to giving us something new and untamed. The unimpeded continuation of Jones’ mind trying to access the inaccessible could get out of control (reference Moon). But thankfully first time screenwriter Ben Ripley, who shows he is capable of commanding science fiction, pens Source Code with a conviction reminiscent of a veteran. Something that is not easy to do. With Jones and Ripley guiding us along we are transported to a realm where nothing is at it appears; nothing is real; identity is meaningless; and death may just be inevitable for all. It is a realm that could have easily exceeded their reaches if it weren’t for their astuteness in knowing how to be moderate, clarifying, and controlling.
With no hesitation we enter this realm. We meet a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) on a commuter train heading to Chicago just as he wakes up, all disoriented and on the verge of hysteria. Sitting next to him is Christina (Michelle Monaghan). She strikes up a conversation and the two seem like they’ve been familiar with each other for some time. The man hastily gets up after having weird internal feelings, stumbling his way to the bathroom. He peers into a mirror only to find that his reflection doesn’t match the reflection we see of him. Nor does it match the reflection that he thinks he should have. What we see and who he believes he should be is Colt Stevens, a former Army soldier. But as the mirror indicates he is someone else. And the passengers on the train see him this way too. Immediately Mr. Jones has our attention.
After scrambling around trying to understand his entire warped out situation, Colt is vaporized due to an explosion on the train. He wakes up again in a sweat, finding himself in a concealed capsule called the source code. Awaiting him via satellite is an Army Intelligence Team (headed by Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright). After many attempts to understand what’s going on, Colt gets them to explain what’s happening to him. He’s informed that the train he awoke to find himself on isn’t reality. The train and all aboard were completely destroyed earlier in the morning. Through science, beyond explanation, engineers are able to relive the final eight minutes of a deceased individual’s life because their memory still remains potent, even after a couple of minutes after their death. So Colt’s consciousness embodies a passenger on the train, a man that best fits Colt’s specifications. And through him, in this alternate reality, he has eight minutes to find the man who planted the bomb so authorities could prevent the second terrorist attack from taking place.
Eight minutes happen more than once due to some failings on Colt’s behalf. But never does redundancy creep into these scenes and reign supreme. Gyllenhaal and Monaghan prove they have the ability of playing variations on the same scene. Every time we have to relive the same last eight minutes Jones makes each sequence authentic in its own right. Observance is a key component to this film, and observing is what Jones does. It seems as if his creative tendencies cannot be restrained. He wields together science fiction with romance, suspense, tragedy, drama, comedy, and even some tinges of affective familial melodrama. This fusion of genres is an accomplishment and not excessive indulgence because it shows that Jones has a panoramic vision that is well acquainted with the powerful and the subtle.
Rating: **** out of *****