Source Code

Duncan Jones trades 2001 for Philip K. Dick, and it's a good call. Can't get away from that hour-long tv-special vibe, but it doesn't feel ponderous here. I think this is down to the actors having simple but compelling little narratives to run thru. Monaghan gets very thin material, but her charm saves the character. Farmiga is superb as the dispassionate C.O. trying to keep a level head. Watching her move from callous annoyance to empathy and heroism is a treat. Wright is a mass of manic ticks, but he does a lot better than the standard creepy bad guy (one of the weakest parts of the film - what is his motivation again??). And Gyllenhall. There's one breakdown scene he fumbles, where I just couldn't believe him the way I could believe Sam Rockwell. But everything else he does better: the flirting, the confusion, the very moving phone-call to his estranged father, and I swear he is the grand master of the fatalistic long-stare.

Jones's throws in some impressive visual trickery. It doesn't dazzle like the world-bending in Inception, but keep things 'warped sci-fi' in what would otherwise be a pretty straight-looking thriller. The smooth tracking shots thru gratings come as standard, but there is an awesome leap from a moving train, and a pretty cool still close-up where the dungeon background reconfigures itself. And Jones, incredibly, finds original ways to film slow-mo explosions. The film begins by smashing together verticals and horizontals, which creates an effect that is a bit too abstract for me to understand. Regardless, there is invention and playfulness here, subtle but delightful.

Yet still has that tv-movie vibe? Why is that? Femes, innit. There's a joke about going to India to find yrself, but really it's hanging a lantern on some very corny corn. Gyllenhall's reconcilement with his father is little better, although he handles the scene really well. MUCH better is Gyllenhall's relationship with the two women in the film, one being inspired to defy her tyrannous employers, the other finding universes of experience in little eight minute bursts. This last idea is really let down by the way Jones chooses to end his film. Partly I was peeved because I couldn't understand the quantum (Aitch had to explain it to me very slowly). But I also felt that the glorious freeze-framed final kiss would have been a great way to end the thing - you didn't need an afterlife, a final twist in the narrative. Black Swan > Inception. I want films to build to crescendos, not pull the rug from underneath at the last moment. This is why Source Code isn't going down as a fave, despite all the learnin Jones has done since his debut feature. Next one will hit the mark, hopefully.

(On an admin note, and for whoever's listening, there's not gna be an awful lot of posts this month, for I've got essays to write in the real world. Hopefully the Pages will get livelier in May. Looking fwd to that a WHOLE bunch)

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