Saturday, 2 April 2011

Source Code


The director of Moon is back. This time he’s got Jake Gyllenhaal. On a train. In someone else’s body.

In order to clarify the theme of Source Code let me explain some quantum physics (!). In 1935, the physicist Erwin Schrödinger devised a thought experiment that addresses the quantum theory of superposition. A cat is shut in a box alongside a vial of hydrocyanic acid, and a detonator triggered by the state of a radioactive isotope. Until the box is opened and the isotope observed, it is in two states at the same time. Consequently, while the box is closed, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. From this we pick up the thread for Source Code.

By the way, Source Code and Schrödinger’s Cat – both initialled SC, coincidence? I think not.

Jake Gyllenhaal is shut in a box of metal, both mentally and physically. We even see the dripping acid on occasion. He is alive and dead at the same time. In Source Code Gyllenhaal is Schrödinger’s Cat. Love it! Clever Duncan Jones and writer Ben Ripley- I salute you!

So how about the film?

What Jones has served up is a gripping, engaging, clever movie. It is a little bit Unstoppable, a little bit Groundhog Day and an obvious nod to the TV show Quantum Leap, all bundled together in a finely crafted, compelling and refreshingly brief 93 minutes.

The effects are impressive and Jones tells the story in a clear, edge-of-your-set, exciting fashion. It is a film that will take you on an adventure that you can’t help but be sucked into.

Jake Gyllenhaal is outstanding. We knew he could act in Donnie Darko; this was re-enforced in Brokeback Mountain and Brothers amongst others (we’ll not discuss Prince Of Persia). Source Code may be his most impressive performance to date. He portrays his situation and thought process with such clarity and effectiveness that even those who will look on the plot as unbelievable will connect with Gyllenhaal’s character. There are, of course, a couple of questionable moments, one involving his father, but rather than this becoming cheesy Gyllenhaal’s portrayal is sympathetic and understated. I was extremely impressed.

I also have to salute the leading ladies, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. Monaghan plays Christina the love interest on the train; she does this with a simplicity and naivety that is a pleasure to watch. Farmiga is Gyllenhaal's handler who has to find the balance between sympathising with his confusion, and getting him to do the job and save the day, she really is commanding. Excellent.

There are a couple of negatives I should mention. The first is Jeffrey Wright, the man who invented the Source Code and now leads the military team. Wright just gets it wrong. Whist the other actors all perform with a delicacy and subtlety that underpins the story; Wright is almost pantomime in his over the top performance. The second is, it is just a little bit too simple to work out. With a Duncan Jones movie we want a couple of killer twists. There were twists, but these were easily predicted albeit done with class.

I can’t write about Source Code without discussing the director Duncan Jones. So let’s get it on record now. How do you follow Moon? I loved Moon. It is one of the most complete sci-fi movies I have ever encountered and one I have watched and re-watched numerous times. It is the closest to 10/10 I expect I will come across for a debut film. Indeed, if I had the money I would buy a Moon poster signed by Jones and Rockwell. I am a ‘Moon geek’. Source Code is not Moon. It represents a ‘step-up’ for Jones who is now a new face in Hollywood, but with this comes a degree of artistic restriction and I feel he was perhaps held back slightly with his vision for Source Code. But Source Code will recieve a wider audience than Moon, it will be a box office success, and it is a great movie.

Source Code is a compelling film. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb, as are Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. Jones has proved he can absolutely cut it at this level. It isn’t as complete a film as Moon, but it stands alone as an absorbing and fulfilling experience. It is also an outstanding filmic translation of advanced and complex quantum theory so watch, ponder, and enjoy.

7.5/10. I have scored this the same as Limitless as I think they are on par overall as rewarding, enjoyable, and extremely worthwhile films that you should make every attempt to see on the big screen. 

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