Sunday, 3 April 2011

FILM REVIEW: Source Code


So, Source Code. Dashings of stars from every review. 'An intelligent thriller that's also thoroughly exciting', 'an excellent sci-fi film', 'the best film of the year so far'. Oh I was excited. From the trailer it looked a bit hit and miss, but once the positive words starting coming in from all angles I was pleased it was going to be one to watch. I was all set for a film that would puzzle me for days, require repeat viewings, get me talking with other film fans. But no. Despite my most heightened expectations, Source Code was neither intelligent and it was far, far from being anywhere near exciting.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Cpt Colter Stevens, a RAF soldier serving in Afghanistan who suddenly wakes up on a train in the body of another man. His confusion over what's happening, causing the bemusement of his travelling companion Christina (Michelle Monaghan) lasts for exactly eight minutes before he is blown to pieces by a bomb on the train which kills everyone on board. But then he awakes: he's in a pod in a sealed off area talking to a woman on a screen who informs him - eventually - that he's inside the Source Code: a device which allows him to live over the last eight minutes of a guy's life on the ill-fated train in an attempt to find out who the bomber is to prevent further attacks which are happening in real time. He's not going back in time to change what happens: merely to discover information for the authorities. And at the same time, he has no idea how he got there or what has happened to the real Colter Stevens.

Sounds like a good premise, doesn't it? It would have been if it had been remotely interesting. Source Code falls into the category - and it's a big category - of thinking its too clever for its own good. And not being charming with it. There were so many plot holes and irrelevancies and cliches and yawnifying 'twists' in this spectacle it's hard to know where to begin.

He has 8 minutes to find the information out. That's fine. I quite enjoyed how he went about using this time, the different methods he used (albeit his train of thought didn't seem to follow a lot of the time. He just suddenly thinks to take the mobile phone off the bomb and phone the bomber?) and the different people he went after (stalking the motion sickness guy). But here's the thing: how did they even know the bomber hadn't been killed on the train with everyone else? How did they know he survived, so Colter could track him down? OK, they may have had intelligence leaked that another bomb was imminent, but this could have been a whole organisation working together with one guy singled out as a suicide bomber on the commuter train - if he had been killed how would they have known where to look next? It's all a bit convenient, isn't it, that the guy just so happened to get off the train and go straight to a van full of the next load of explosives? Ugh, contrived writing, my favourite.

Also, his sudden urge to rescue Christina whom he's known for all of, hmmm, 16 minutes? 24 minutes? Apparently this film is full of strong characters with an emotional attachment that really holds tight (unlike Sucker Punch...) but the only meaningful relationship here is between Colter and his father, and the phone conversation they have after he discovers he's dead in the 'real world'. Everything else is so flimsy, so unbelievable. It's not as if the characters are unlikeable, but for Colter to suddenly have a deep connection to all of them - including Goodwin, the woman on the screen who's coordinating this mission - is dubious if we're being lenient, implausible and laughable if we're being honest.

Then there's the same event we keep going back to time and time again. As I said, enjoyable for the first couple of times, tiresome beyond that (I checked my watch about 40 minutes in. God it seemed to drag on endlessly). I was intrigued to see that every time he managed to get off the train he would conveniently be killed somehow the moment the 8 minutes were up - convenient seems to be the word of the day here, huh? There's only so much being engulfed with flames you can sit through before, of course, things make a change and suddenly the hero finds the information and wins the day. Except he can't win the day because this isn't time travel and the people on the train all die in the end... except wait. They don't. Colter Stevens knows the Source Code better than the team who put it together actually do. Hurrah! If he prevents the bomb from going off at all and citizens arrests the bomber then the Source Code expands to become actual reality and he can go on possessing the guy on the train's body forever even though he's dead. Yah! Go sci-fi film win! 

A vital fact I missed before going to see this film was properly acknowledging who the director was - Duncan Jones. He made the film Moon a couple of years ago, a very small budget cult followed sci fi British film which became the little independent darling everyone had to go and see, and subsequently love. It was a lot of critics' film of the year. I hated Moon. I've just had a look back to see what I wrote about it and it reads like this review: interest just bobbing up the surface, curious premise but boring characters I didn't care about, unconvincing and underwhelming. The problem with Source Code is that I was so looking forward to it on my own merits. I saw Moon because everyone else was raving about it, but didn't get the fuss at all. Now I think I know my limits, and will be avoiding a Duncan Jones film in future. (on a side note I really, really hope all this love isn't because he's English. I hate deluded patriotism! Stop it!)

Not impressed, can't understand the praise this is getting at all. Hell even The Adjustment Bureau was more entertaining than this. A mystified culturemouse here, giving the 2 star film 4 cheeses and the 4 star film 2 cheeses. The only good thing about Source Code is being able to say 'Jake's on a train'. Hee, let's leave it at that.


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