Sunday, April 3, 2011

Movie Review: Source Code

I find that I tend to get inspired by quality young directors in Hollywood. For a while M. Night Shyamalan was my favorite director during his amazing 5-film run in the early 2000's (before he flamed out with The Happening and The Last Airbender). When District 9 came out a few years ago I immediately became a huge Neil Blomkamp fan (I'm still waiting on his follow-up next project). And similarly when I saw Duncan Jones' (David Bowie's son) well crafted sci fi indie film Moon on Bluray in 2009 I was instantly sold. Shyamalan has lost what Blomkamp and Jones have, a youthful eye for cinema that translates to creative and intricate plots that make for extremely engaging entertainment on the big screen.

Jones selected write Ben Ripley's Source Code to be his sophomore directorial effort. The movie focuses on Jake Gyllenhaal's character an Army captain who recently left his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Gyllenhaal has been tasked with using an experimental method of memory retrieval to go back and relive 8 minutes of a commuter train ride in Chicago just before a bomb goes off killing hundreds of people. The military experiment (code named Source Code) is headed up by Jefferey Wright's character (Wright is such an underrated actor by the way) who is trying to find a solid use case for this method of crime solving. Gyllenhaal is placed in the body of a school teacher who is taking a trip on the train with his love interest (a particularly engaging Michelle Monaghan). Vera Farmiga plays Goodwin, a government operative who coaches Gyllenhaal via video feed through his repeated attempts at finding the bomber.

Parts of this movie play out like Groundhog Day in that we see the same incidents occur in real time over and over again on the train. Unlike in the Bill Murray vehicle, the gimmick does not get repetative and annoying. Each time through the 8 minute trip we (the audience) notice new details and when Gyllenhaal eventually locates the bomber, it seems as if proper deduction was used to solve the case. The Sci Fi aspect to the film is well done and I don't want to give key plot points away. Let's just say that most everything we see is entirely believable within the rules set forth by the world that is created for the film. Jones is really good at creating solid tension throughout but also blends in some real emotional connection during the last quarter of the movie. Jake Gyllenhaal has really cemented himself as one of the best young actors working today. His intensity and down to earth nature anchors the entire movie. His reactions to the insane happenings he experiences are totally believable. Farmiga and Wright are equally as effective in their "secret government official" roles.

At a brisk 1:35 run time, Source Code churns along pleasantly and you will not find yourself bored at all during the film. I would have liked to have seen some aspects of the Source Code project explained a bit more, but Jones leaves enough to the imagination to make the overall ending effective. All in all this is a fantastic follow-up to Moon for one of the most promising directors in Hollywood. I would recommend seeing Source Code in the theater as soon as possible. A strong 4.5 out of 5 JRs for this one and I'm hoping the poor box office for opening weekend (15 Million) doesn't hurt Duncan Jones' long term bankability as a director.

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