The second of the post-Inception Hollywood sci-fi thrillers comes from visionary director Duncan Jones (AKA Zowie Bowie) of Moon fame. With Moon, Jones proved he could make a true genre movie complete with the atmosphere, cinematography and forgotten conventional traits a classic sci-fi should have. Once again, with the help of Source Code writer Ben Ripley, Jones manages to capture everything that’s thrilling in a thriller.
Colter Stephens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a US Army helicopter pilot who wakes up in the body of another man on a train awaiting an unavoidable explosion. In actual fact, Stephens is far away in both time and place, having been selected by the military to take part in a time bending experiment in the hopes of apprehending the mass murderer who set off the train bomb. Each time that Stephens goes back, he has exactly 8 minutes until the bomb goes off, therefore 8 minutes to find the bomber. There’s the obligatory part in every time travel film when the scientist (played by Jeffrey Wright) explains the science behind the project, and that ‘It’s like time travel, only not really.’ (something I like to call the ‘get-it-out-of-the-way scene’). Anything Stephens does in Source Code doesn’t actually affect the future, only provides information regarding a past event; think of it more as a REALLY detailed simulation (as Stephens first thinks it is).
If you were confused by that, here is the marvellous IMDB log line:
An action thriller centred on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.
First and foremost, Chris Bacon deserves high commendation for producing the best soundtrack of the year so far. Particularly pacey when coupled with the fast moving train shots, it seems
unashamedly nostalgic towards the classic Hitchcock opening title sequences. But more than this, Bacon offers a score which paces the events of the film beautifully, while also adding an emotional level to some of the more personal scenes in the movie.
Stellar performances from Gyllenhaal as guinea-pig-in-the-middle and scientist/officer/link to the real world Vera Farmiga lead the film, with consistent roles provided by the train passengers. There is a coherent and well written human level to each character’s actions, besides the scientist’s typical overprotective “Don’t mess with my machine!” condition. Some agile and intelligent editing from Star Wars maestro Paul Hirsch manages to piece the movie together at around 90 minutes. It’s fair to say that Source Code offers as much bang for your buck/quid as its precursory sci fi flicks.
I suppose the only gripe I have with Source Code is the unoriginality of the idea. Yes, time travel has been done over and over, and no, there’s really nothing going for Source Code that makes it much different to the others. Fully aware of today’s well accustomed audience, Source Code doesn’t patronise it’s audience with too much scientific nonsense, and I suppose in that sense, it’s asking us to let go of reality and become immersed in its alternate world. I’ve decided to follow this example; ignoring the tried and tested ideas of time travel/shape shifting etc., Source Code is an inspired and intense genre movie well worth your concept of time.