Thursday, April 7, 2011

BRAIN-TINGLER

Duncan Jones likes to play around with his audience.  He likes to make you think while also giving you solid entertainment.  His first movie, the underrated sci-fi drama Moon, was a one-man show for its star, Sam Rockwell, and it demonstrated a filmmaker in command of his craft and asking some heady thematic questions.  His new film, the endearingly loopy and wonderfully entertaining Source Code, carries a much bigger budget (but still small when compared to other genre entries) with flashier digital effects, but Jones never looses sight of the human element found within Ben Ripley's multi layered, Nolan-esque screenplay.  Source Code demands that you stick with it the entire time, and while there are some nice sequences of fiery-action and bloody fisticuffs, it's definitely what I'd call a "thinking-person's" action film, one that will reward attentive viewers. 

Jake Gyllenhal (engaging as always) plays a solider who is unwittingly drafted into a high-tech, experimental government program where he's able to inhabit the body and mind of a person for the last eight minutes of their life.  In the film's disorienting opening moments, Gyllenhal wakes up on a commuter train headed for downtown Chicago, not knowing anyone, and is then blown up due to a terrorist explosion.  He learns that his mission is to figure out who and where the bomber is.  So, in Groundhog Day-like fashion, he keeps going back to the same moment, waking up on the train, trying to piece things together and find the bomber, before he's blown up again.  Things get extra complicated when he develops feelings for a cute train passenger (Michelle Monaghan), who he becomes certain he can save by bending the laws of time and space.  Gyllenhal seems to really be coming into his own as an actor; his work in Zodiac, Brokeback Mountain, and Love & Other Drugs had me convinced he was the real deal after he broke out in Donnie Darko and Moonlight Mile.  But with Source Code, he's a true "leading-man," and he brings humor, gravity, and a sense of urgency to his character.

Source Code, like Inception or The Adjustment Bureau or any film of this sort, requires suspension of disbelief in order to remain watchable.  You've just got to accept what this movie is offering.  What I love about the science fiction genre is that it captivates your imagination in ways that almost every other genre cannot do -- there's something so inherently exciting and intriguing (at least to me) about sci-fi concepts, and when they're grounded in a familiar reality like it's done here (the film also recalls Tony Scott's kinetic head-trip Deja Vu), the story becomes all the more interesting.  Add to that commanding performances from a solid cast (Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright nail their respective roles) and slick direction from Jones, who shows his stylish hand at directing CGI-infused set pieces, and you've got a trippy-cool movie that will have a long shelf life.  The last 15 minutes of Source Code will give your brain a work out as you try and put all of the pieces together; it's a flick that will certainly benefit from multiple viewings.  And even if the ending feels a bit "Hollywood" (I'd have preferred a darker resolution) it confirms that Jones is no fluke and that he's a major talent to look out for in the future.

2 comments:

phil said...

there's an r missing in source

Actionman said...

eat me. go see the movie as you will LOVE it