Source Code (2011) Short Review

I chose not to see Source Code in theaters and admittedly, that was a poor choice.  To this point in 2011 (end of July/beginning of August) it’s probably the best movie that I’ve seen. Much like in his film debut British director Duncan Jones has made an intelligent sci-fi film that never insults the intelligence of the audience. Moon, his first feature,  was a very good film that made my ‘Best of 2009‘ and ‘Best of the 2000s‘ lists. I don’t think this is quite as good as that one as far as being grounded in science fiction, but it is a WHOLE lot more fun.  As deliberately paced as Moon was, this one zips along, partially because of the plot in the story revolves around a Groundhog Day-like 8 minutes that is repeated  (in variation) throughout the movie.

I don’t want to give anything away for someone who hasn’t seen the movie, so I’m not going to talk about plot in the film other than the bare minimum. Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), is a military pilot who finds out information at the same time as the audience does. He awakens on a train sitting across from the extremely lovely and talented Michelle Monaghan who seems to know him, but he doesn’t know her, how he got on the train or why. After a quick visit to the bathroom he doesn’t recognize his face in the mirror. Monaghan, concerned for him, tries to calm him down to no avail. As they argue, another trin passes aaaaannnnnnd… The movie begins in earnest.

Seeing it the first time, one may have the same confusion as the character does. There is an organization that is behind his situation in the film, whose motives may or may not be as benevolent as they seem. I don’t think I gave anything away there.

Jake Gyllenhaal carries the film extremely well. He has a combination of action hero and top-notch actor in this. There is never a dull moment in the film, even when the focus is Gyllenhaal’s character just trying to sort matters out. Gyllenhaal always plays slightly quirky characters that don’t always react or deliver lines as one might expect and his character here has that same quirkiness. He also has great comic timing and some of the biggest laughs in the film come in the more tense moments where he’s at his most sarcastic. There is an element of the aforementioned “Groundhog Day” where the character is temporarily doomed to play out the same scene over and over until he ‘gets it right’.

The film poses interesting concepts that may not be quite as heady as say, Inception, but it’s still more thought provoking than your average action thriller. Some have said that there are points where the film falls apart in its logic, but I never saw it that way. It made perfect sense to me.  I don’t want to make it sound like it’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, though. There is plenty of action. It’s constant even.

Michelle Monaghan is welcome in any movie that I see.

I have personally not seen her in anything in a couple of years (Eagle Eye) and forgot she was in this,  so I was happy to see her appear.

It would be interesting to see her in some sort of villainess role, since she generally plays the intelligent ‘girl next door type’ that you’d want to meet. She doesn’t have to play as gritty here as she has in films like “Gone Baby, Gone”, but she is more engaging here as a simple love interest of the film.

I hope she stays in the realm of science fiction and action films and doesn’t go the way of the chick flick as other actresses sometimes do once they’ve established a career in lead actress roles.

Okay… One more picture of  Monaghan before we continue, JUST to make sure it seems creepier than it actually is. No, really.

There are some other interesting actors here. The nearly as lovely and talented (it’s all subjective) Vera Farmiga plays a far trickier role. The intentions of her character Goodwin as well as that of go-to character actor Jeffrey Wright’s role is one that goes in somewhat sinister direction.

It takes a while before their full intentions are revealed to the Stevens character, even though Stevens knows that something isn’t quite right with the situation. Wright plays Dr. Rutledge, the man behind what’s really going on in the film. He tiptoes the line several times during the story of benevolence and malevolence.

There were some nitpicks here and there, but none worth mentioning. I so enjoyed Source Code that immediately after watching it, I hit ‘play’ again. I probably could have watched it a third time with the commentary on. It was that good.  I don’t know if it will be my Top Movie of 2011, but it certainly set a high bar.

4.5 of 5

 

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