Title: Source Code
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
Director: Duncan Jones
It wasn't all too long ago that I first saw the film “Moon,” debut effort from this director now only on his second bout with recognition and once again managing to produce a concept that is nothing if not intriguing; his chops before delivering upon one of the best sci-fi films to emerge in recent years and evidently returning for something perhaps a little more palletable to a mainstream audience was still something I couldn't pass up. Telling the story of Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) of the US Air Force, suddenly awakened inside the body of another man aboard a commuter train opposite the enigmatic Christina (Monaghan), it isn't long before he has his life whisked away from under him from an explosion that decimates the train. Coming to once again in a mysterious capsule, he finds himself conversing with one Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga) who tells him of his mission: to be sent into the body of this man for the last eight minutes of his life and discover the identity of the bomber. This begins a spiral as we not only struggle to identify the man responsible for the terrorist action, but also of Stevens and the perplexing situation he finds himself.
There is much to applauded here and there doesn't seem to be a weak link in the main cast; Monaghan manages to get a sense of her character across in her painfully brief sequences and Gyllenhaal proves that whilst he now rolls with the big boys, that he isn't a braindead actor incapable of displaying complex emotions. The script, too, deserves a large amount of credit for facilitating all the proceedings; the turbulent plot is brought to life by the actions of our protagonist whose actions never feel idiotic, even when they don't work out as planned, or betraying the idea that he is a captain of the U.S. Air Force and hence somewhat adept at thinking on his feet. It's intelligent without ever feeling pretentious or overly complex and manages to tread this fine line, remaining simple enough that the scientific element never becomes a distraction that often causes films such as this to falter.
But much of my disappointment, and indeed likely the reason it'll never manage to quite make it as a sci-fi classic is because of the somewhat cliché ending. It does make sense if you think about it for a few seconds – though certainly those who aren't particularly scientifically minded may need someone to help explain the concept of parallel universes to them – but because we are drilled so much the ineffectiveness of trying to change the future by entering the past, that when suddenly it happens you're overcome by a mixture of relief for our hero's improved situation and anger at the fact that they've deliberately told you one thing only to go back on it; the overdone romantic plot line to try and make it fit with every other big budget film these days never given time to develop and, whilst this is not particularly unwelcome, I do wonder why they didn't do away with this thread altogether, only really held together by the fact that Monaghan can't be on screen without somehow managing to be enchanting to watch.
It's not difficult to see how this is going to draw all the 'Inception' comparisons before too long; both involving delving into the psyche, altering the past to affect the future, (and both having come out within a year of each other for those who have difficulty remembering films further back), but in truth they play out as rather different films. The former is intricately detailed with subtle hints and suggestions to keep you guessing, Source Code on the other hand is rather simple by design. As with all sensical sci-fi (as opposed to talk of Dilithium Crystals and Holodecks) it's based largely on current scientific knowledge with just a few gaps filled in to explain what might happen, and this never really drags down the story which – much like his last film – simply uses the medium to deliver upon a twist on an old style; the classic murder mystery given added depth by the manner in which it all unfolds, constantly revealing new information and showing us the same characters from whom we draw our suspicions. Almost as much 'Poirot' as it is your standard thriller, whilst it falls short of what I had hoped from him, veering towards the territory of clichés and convention, he does little to dissuade me from the fact that this could be one of the most exciting new directors to emerge in a rather long time.