' ' Cinema Romantico: Source Code

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal wakes on a commuter train apparently bound for Chicago. Michelle Monaghan, impeccably attired in black tights and black boots (not that I noticed or cared), sits across from him, smiling and saying something about taking his advice. What advice? Jake isn't sure. He knows he's Capt. Colter Stevens of the U.S. Army but Michelle, who is Christina, keeps calling him Sean. "I'm not Sean," he tells her. "You're acting weird," she says. He goes to the bathroom, disoriented, looks at himself in the mirror and sees someone else looking back at him. Huh. That must be this Sean. But who is Sean? Why does he look like him? And why is he on this train? And then, a few minutes later, there is a gigantic explosion.

He wakes up inside what appears to be some sort of sci fi movie space capsule and he's strapped into a chair and this woman on this screen calling herself Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) is babbling about "Beleaguered Castle." What the hay is Beleaguered Castle? And why is he strapped into this chair? Where is he now? I mean, for the love of...... "Who bombed the train?" Goodwin wants to know. Colter, or Sean, has no idea who bombed the train. Doesn't even know how he got on the train. Doesn't know where he is now. So how's he supposed to know who bombed it?

"Source Code", the new feature from Duncan Jones, is all about pulling out the rug from under, over and over, again and again. The rug gets pulled out from under Gyllenhaal at the same it gets pulled out from under us. Jones parses out bits and pieces of information scene by scene so that we have just enough to advance in the story and, yet, to keep us wondering about what might come next. The less we know, the more invigorating the film feels.

Goodwin's superior, Dr. Rutledge, played by Jeffrey Wright, suggesting he is auditioning for the "Twilight Zone" with the itchy delivery and the cane (and I bet $5 Wright added that piece of business himself), explains to Capt. Stevens that he is not really aboard that train, he is merely in a computer program referred to, simply, as the Source Code, the logic of which is beside the point at present because whoever bombed that train is plotting to take things up a notch and unleash a dirty bomb on the whole of downtown Chicago, thus, finding that bomber is of the essence.

Working from a script by Ben Ripley, Jones' film spends most of its time between the warring trenches of commercially slick and thought provoking. One of its interesting aspects is how the entire storyline of "find that bomber" has become sorta irrelevant by the end. (It's almost too easy, in fact, to spot the bomber because this whole "We Have To Keep Re-Doing The Same 8 Minutes Over And Over" means that if a seemingly innocent, pointless detail is seen again and again, well, uh, it's probably not innocent or pointless. Right?) Instead "Source Code" gleans more momentum by wondering, as a character says, "What would you do if you knew you only had a minute to live?" Well, that's just a good question. We've all asked it, whether out loud or to ourselves. We all know my answer by now - that is, I'd crank "Bad Romance" and go out like a champion. But seriously, folks......

I sensed more on the mind of "Source Code" than it was willing to explore. I detected a yearning to go beyond the pat, obligatory twist that closes the film (and I'm not sure makes total sense), to investigate how one might feel if he or she knows they are facing their great gettin' up morning. It could be considered, in some ways, a companion piece to "The Adjustment Bureau." But that film decided it was going to be a straight-up melodramatic opera and went for it with gleeful abandon. "Source Code" can't commit. It's the thinking man's movie when the thinking man is in the mood for cotton candy.


Anonymous said...

Haha I like your last line.

I think you're right about the fact that the film leaves the actual finding of the bomber to the background; I mean the whole wallet thing was clear to me from the beginning to be an indication of a person of interest. Good review!

Thomas said...

I love how the film gave us two separate mysteries to unravel; his search for the bomber and for the truth behind his own past. If it were all focused on just the bomb it would have gotten old fast, but by switching between the two questions, it made things a lot more interesting.


Castor said...

Seeing it this weekend but I have high expectations. Will let you know what I think once I see it :)