Source Code Review

I have another thing up at the M+ magazine, which I want to post here as well, a tidied-up version of the blathering over here. This one's the director's cut:

Duncan Jones replaces the monotonous cabin-fever of Moon with express trains, bombs and inter-dimensional travel with his second feature film. However, the thematic concerns remain the same: little guys trapped inside tyrannous organizations that nevertheless ensure the peace and comfort of the majority. Where does personal fulfillment fit in with the duty you have towards others? Jake Gyllenhaal takes over from Sam Rockwell as the decent guy put under extreme pressure to do the right thing, and while not quite hitting the breakdown as hard, he is likable enough to keep you invested in the role. Vera Farmiga is even better as the C.O. of Gyllenhaal’s mission, going from cool efficiency, impatience, on to empathy, and then to defiance and heroism. Michelle Monaghan is given thin material as the romantic interest, but her charm saves the character. With Gyllenhaal, she manages to sell the corny notion of eight-minute chunks of life having the potential to contain universes of experience.

The film stumbles with its generically creepy villain, who’s motives are skimmed over rather than delved into. Some of the other flourishes made by Jones fall a little flat. It’s difficult to escape cliche with a side-plot about the search for approval from a distant father, although Gyllenhaal handles the scene admirably. There is also talk of going to India to find yourself, which while self-aware, fails to inspire. Some may find the film’s conclusion a little disappointing, the rousing bitter-sweet crescendo thrown away by another twist in the narrative. I’m also obliged to inform you that the film contains uses of ‘quantum’ which my more scientifically-minded friends insist is absurd, although since I don’t understand this ‘quantum’, I cannot possibly comment. But these are arguments to have in the pub after watching the film, which you should definitely do. Source Code is a compact, involving SF thriller asking those big existential questions, and it demonstrates that Jones’s trajectory is on the up.

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