Friday, May 06, 2011

Source Code is...

... 30% bullshit. Let's face it. All the explanations we get in Source Code are completely fanciful claptrap that don't really make sense if you think about them for more than five seconds. And that's completely fine and dandy until it starts taking everything so seriously in the final act, and pulls some sort of magic time-bending trick out of thin air that exists on the exact basis that it can't really be explained. It's a bit like in Duncan Jones' previous feature, Moon, when the fun sci-fi concept got all heavy and serious and drained all the life out of Sam Rockwell. It's harder to suck the life out of Jake Gyllenhaal here, since that's already kinda happened, but it's essentially the same situation. I don't mind a dramatic conclusion. But try not to craft it at the expense of the fun you've already been having. It depresses me.

... 20% Jake Gyllenhaal. 2010 was the year when Jake finally got thrust into the carrying a mainstream movie ballpark, with the highest-grossing video-game adaptation EVER in Prince of Persia, and the quite-frankly execrable "romantic" "comedy" "drama" Love and Other Drugs. But Source Code feels like the first time he's really holding a feature by himself, being responsible for the entire mood of the thing, convincing us of its scientific and romantic leanings - basically, he's the one selling the thing. And he does a rather good job. It helps to be so swoon-fully good-looking, of course, but we already knew, too, that he has charisma in abundance, and most crucially he sells the difficult mental journey Colter Stevens is forced to take, constantly thrust back into the same section of time over and over again while simultaneously learning, or remembering, his own reality. The "bullshit" takes over in the end, but it's Jake's sympathetic smarts you'll remember.

... 17% Quantum Leap. I did a sad little squeal of geeky delight when I spotted Scott Bakula's name at the end of the cast list as the credits rolled up. In a delicious little nod, he supplied the voice of Colter's father. My mother was a massive Quantum Leap fan, so while I couldn't name you the episode Jennifer Aniston guest-starred in, I still hold a certain fondness for the show. Of course, the constant jumping back in time to another person's body is basically stolen from Quantum Leap, and, like Dr. Sam Beckett, Colter's task is to "put right what once went wrong". Not a plagiarist, Colter actually says this line, and Bakula's cameo is begun with the show's other trademark line, "ohhh boy". Source Code isn't nearly as good as Quantum Leap, but it's a lot shinier.

... 13% The War. Bombings ---> terrorism ---> wars of the Bush regime. It's a simple, inevitable chain, and though the actual bomber doesn't fit into this pattern, he might as well do. Point is, Colter is haunted by his war experiences, and as such, reacts to the idea of a bomb, the suspects on the train, and the actual bomber, in the mindset of a soldier. Again, before it becomes all heavy-handed, this approach is quite cleverly used, a sharply realistic view of how both soldier and public function in this post-9/11 society, yet still in the guise of a pulpy thriller. After, it feels like you've been smacked in the face with a wet chain of bullets.

... 10% North by Northwest. Those credits, gliding diagrammatically over Chicago's streets, remind of the angular credits of Hitchcock's famous thriller. The music, by Chris Bacon, is very menacing bombast, with the low, growling horns and panicked flourishes of strings, and percussion generally going a bit bananas. And quite a bit of both takes place on a train. I mean, it's basically the same film.

... 5% completely obvious clues that probably don't even matter. You might not have seen Source Code yet, so I won't spoil it... but I figured out who the bomber was from the moment (s)he did that possibly-inconsequential-but-really-quite-important-if-the-identity-of-the-bomber-is-even-important-which-I'm-not-sure-it-is thing that (s)he does.

But like I said, I doubt it matters.

... 3% Vera Farmiga. From the moment she first announced herself in 2004's Down to the Bone, Ms. Farmiga immediately established herself as the best thing in any film she deigns to appear in, and it would be the same here if she had just a smidgen to work with. Throughout, she supplies an unsuffocating melancholy to her role as the Air Force Captain instructing and advising Colter through his mission, but what really gains her points is how she almost manages to sell that unfortunate final act of the film. Gyllenhaal is largely incapacitated and the burden of the film's emotional thrust, inevitably stepped up, falls to Farmiga, and though she could do it in her sleep, she makes the dilemma at the core of the film's conclusion seem painfully uncomfortable. Give her your best salute.

... 2% slow-motion explosions. I mean, what is this? A Zach Snyder film?

(C+)

4 comments:

msmariah said...

I've been reading your blog. I enjoy your commentary, but I liked Source Code. I have to agree with you on Thor. I was surprised at how many good reviews Thor got. I also gave it a mixed review, but overall I thought it was an ok popcorn flick.

Johnny F! said...

Why do you automatically assume your reader(s) will be surprised that a woman enjoys a science fiction television show like Quantum Leap, or that it will be some mind-blowing revelation? There are plenty of women who enjoy this genre and are enthusiasts when comes to it, so much so that I take it for granted.

Paolo said...

3% Vera Farmiga? This is highly unacceptable!

5plitreel said...

I totally got the Hitchcock wibe too!

Looking forward to what Duncan Jones does next!