‘Source Code’: An engrossing, entertaining thriller (IANS Film Review, Rating:****)

April 30th, 2011 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Film: Source Code; Director: Duncan Jones; Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga; Rating: ****

Every movie once clearly fell into one genre. Today, as writers and directors push harder, we have mixed-genres movies. “Source Code” is an example that is a romance, sci-fi, action and thriller in equal measure. And it is one that works delightfully.

Captain Colters (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in a train to Chicago, inside a body he does not identify before a woman (Michelle Monaghan) he does not know.

In the midst of his confusion the train blows up. He wakes up in a cold cockpit like cell and is told that the train he was on actually blew up in the morning and he was actually in a simulation generated from the eight minute residual memory scraped from the brains of the dead inserted into a programme called the source code. His job is to find the bomber and get clues to prevent another bombing in the city.

But every time he goes back into the eight minute loop, he fails to find who planted the bomb, even as he falls in love with the woman before him.

At the face of it, the film takes its source code from a host of other movies and series, most obviously “Groundhog Day” to “Deja Vu” to the TV series “Quantum Leap” and every time-travel movie you have seen.

And that is obvious since the film also picks up generous servings from other films like “Tron”, “Matrix”, “Minority Report”, among others. Yet, where it succeeds is in not looking like any one of these films. Despite many source, “Source Code” has a code of its own.

The film handles its different genres well. Yet, at its source, it’s a love story. The sci-fi and thriller bit is more like a sugar coating on an already very sweet pill.

For a film about time, a director’s grasp of this dimension is key to its success. And it is to director Duncan Jones’ credit, who has earlier given the brilliant but underrated “Moon”, that he handles key moments extremely well.

And just like the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, he has a mastery of both mystery and cinematic time - speeding it up and slowing it down as the audiences watch the film at his mercy.

The script by debutant Ben Ripley is brilliant in its handling of various mysteries. Thus while our protagonist is busy figuring out the bomber, the audience is busy figuring who he is. Not sagging even for a moment in its 93-minute duration, “Source Code” is an achievement of a writer and his director working in perfect harmony.

There are, however, a few discrepancies in the logic of its sci-fi bits. If the explosion blew up all the passengers, you wonder where the brains to tap into them to recreate the last eight minutes were found. Also the logic given by the bomber is extremely simplistic.

The ending and the creation of a universe might also jar for a few audiences. However, enough foreshadowing of it is done earlier in the film when Colters is shown connecting to the world outside the train compartment in his stipulated eight minutes, especially to connect with his father’s image inside the source code. Yet, even if you consider them aberrations, they are minor ones in an otherwise stellar effort.

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