Apr 3, 2011

REVIEW: Source Code (dir. Jones)

Source Code is energetic nonsense, and for about 90 minutes it's energetic nonsense of the kind that I was more than happy to go along with: the kind set on a train, with a good-looking girl in the seat opposite, a bomb several carriages down, and a score that plunders Bernard Hermann at every available opportunity. "Don't think.... do," Vera Farmiga instructs Jake Gyllenhaal when he starts to ask too many questions as to why he is reliving the same eight minutes, over and over again, wearing another man's face, before that bomb destroys him and the pretty girl opposite, played by Michelle Monaghan, who looks very similar to the way Michael Jackson used to look in his dreams. "The more seconds we waste talking, the more innocent lives are put at risk," chides Farmiga. That's how I like my exposition. Brutish, passive-aggressive and guilt-inducing — positively Cheneyesque. Duncan Jones has chosen to follow up his haunting Moon with a pacey bit of neo-noir, of the kind that so seizes the nation's youth these days and which consists primarily of flattering them that their frontal lobes contain a mazy warren of plot options, alternative futures and other assorted extras, of the kind that used to be located down the dark alleyways and mean streets of Chandler and Hammett. Call it MRI noir. Down these neural passages a man must go who is not himself neural, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. And that man shall be Jake Gyllenhaal, whose gifts of bug-eyed perplexity never quite eclipse the doe-eyed callisthenics of his smooth-operator routine; waiting to be obliterated by a fireball, he bats his lashes at Monaghan like a man chalking his pool cue. If great-looking eyeballs are your thing, then this is your movie, in fact. Source Code appears to have been cast on the principle that the bigger the plot-holes the more saucer-eyed the actors required to negotiate them. There's another great set of eyeballs on Farmiga, her liquid-azure irises seeming to contain and reflect back whole skies and universes, some of them alternate no doubt, giving her the slightly distracted air of someone who once looked in a mirror, self-hypnotised and never quite snapped out of it. Best of all, though, is Jeffrey Wright who delivers the kind of slithering bureaucrat that Alec Guinness used to be so good at: all slothlike movement, unctuous manner and gelid morals. You half expect to see a glistening trail out back. I'm not going to try to summarise the plot, except to say that comprehension beckoned, danced a little minuet, curtsied, made her excuses and finally departed at around the 92-minute mark, at which point the filmmakers made the unwise decision to try and make sense of the preceding movie, the net effect of which was to make the heads of all 200 people in the audience explode simultaneously. I cannot readily recall another scene from a movie that snatches defeat so deftly from the jaws of victory. Never mind. Source Code has a nice clip to it, a toothsome score, a couple of emotional bits, Wright and peachy Monaghan. B-


  1. Very nicely written review of this sci-fi Groundhog's Day, but I'd still recommend "Limitless", in the similar genre and weight class, over this one. Source Code gets points for the lovely Chicago/Kapoor Bean scene that evoked such warm memories.

  2. Thanks. I haven't seen Limitless, having been put off by the woolly premise — a drug that turns writers into bankers? — but maybe I should think again.