Friday, 15 April 2011

REVIEW: Source Code

Today's 8:35 to Chicago comes with iconographic romantic fatalism.

I think the marketing strategy for Source Code has been a stroke of genius. Here's your memo. You've got a follow-up feature from a promising director Duncan Jones, whose last film Moon is one of the cult hits of recent years. Now you want to keep the critical credibility, but you want to make some money. You know what you've got isn't as good as Moon, but is still pretty good and will probably get unfairly ripped in that comparison. So what you do is release a god-awful trailer, one that makes it look the worst kind of 00's Nic Cage B movie. People's expectations lowered, masses appealed to. Thus the sense of pleasant surprise that comes from watching Source Code and realizing its not a complete suckfest makes the critics be overly kind so taken are they with their relief, and the masses expecting a dumber, louder movie? Well they've already bought their ticket so fuck them. Genius.

So the film itself, its an intelligent sci-fi thriller, pulling elements from films as diverse as Deja Vu and Groundhog Day and blending them together in a fairly mainstream, entertaining package. The script can be a bit flat at times and boy is there some expositing to do, but this is classy film-making from a terrific director at an exciting moment in his career. Gyllenhaal is a great anchor for this too, because I reckon I wouldn't have taken too much for this film to get lost in that familiar sci-fi wasteland of movies rich in ideas and concepts but slender in humanity or relatability. He brings an earnestness and a soul to proceedings, and while he may not necessarily make the best movies, everything seems to be a six out of ten or less at the moment, he really is a great actor with enough charisma to be an attribute to any film he's in, not just the good ones. Vera Farmiga lends some solid support, as does Michelle Monaghan. Jeffrey Wright maybe gets a bit too caught up in the mad scientist of it all, delivering a performance that at times is effective, at times as if should belong in a bad 50's sci-fi movie.

While I liked what the movie did with its set-up, weaknesses sprout up, from the weakly stereotypical and predictable third act bad guy to perhaps its dallying in the opening sections, but overall Source Code is a rewarding and engaging experience. Taking some potentially alienating ideas and making them viable. Kudos to Jones for communicating the information that needed to be communicated effectively and not making that the movie. Because great sci-fi isn't the idea, its exploring the consequences of the idea, and in that regard Source Code is gruffly effective. Its very mainstream, and perhaps more things could have been done in a movie slightly less off the leash, but while its entertainment, its pleasingly mature entertainment. I'm just happy Duncan Jones second movie didn't suck and ruin his career to be honest, as I was mildly afraid it might. Everybody wins, I guess.

Rating: 6/10

1 comment:

kPg said...

Wow, this is a smart critique! You know, among all the reviews I've read about Source Code, the common positive thing was that director Duncan Jones did a great job in telling the story. Actually, I made the same remark in my own Source Code movie review. Will you please check it out? Thanks!