This movie has Terry Gilliam’s fingerprints all over it, especially those of the Gilliam who made Twelve Monkeys (1995). But, here, the closest we get to Brad Pitt’s rambling genius is Michelle Monaghan in an adorable outfit. Better, however, is the lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, who has grown to have an incredibly commanding screen presence. From the days of Donnie Darko (2001) until now, it has been growing in me as an actor. Then when Brokeback Mountain (2005) came out, everything clicked and I became one of those “insta fans” who never look back. Donnie Darko still sucks, but at least the kid can be seen now.
Source Code is an interesting movie, directed by Duncan Jones (remember Moon from 2009). A man wakes up on a train not knowing who he is or why he is there. Everyone on board seems to know him, and he seems to have a thing for the beautiful girl sitting across from him. Eight minutes after this is all set, everyone dies. The train explodes and our man wakes up again in a kind of capsule (or perhaps a grave, existentially) with a voice coming from a television that says this: he is a soldier, Captain Colter Stevens, and part of an intense new system known as “font encoding,” in which you must travel back to a tragic accident to find out both what went wrong and who to blame.
Your mission, regardless of whether you choose to accept it, is to disarm a bomb on that train and hunt down the criminal behind it. Of course, this is not easy, and it is exactly where the movie falls apart. The ending is cheap and you can smell it from the first thirty minutes; unnecessary love interest gets right in our faces (one has to wonder if the good captain will ever tell the girl that he’s not who she thinks he is), and we get four movies for the price of one. But, with this being a major studio release in early 2011 canon, we get the one that doesn’t carry much weight. Just a few decent performances and a “Huh?” kind of an ending. No “Huh?” in that it does not make sense. “Hey?” in that “is this the best they can do?”
In one of the outings that the filmmakers propose to the audience, we would get a character study about a man who is driven to extreme violence to save thousands of lives. In another outing, we would get a love story against incredible and unchanging odds. In another outlet, there is the story of a man who fights for his country with blind faith. Instead, it’s a mix, with all the wrong parts and a lot of cacophonous dissonance. We see a man taken to extreme violence to save lives, but no, because he is a soldier (so that is automatically what we are told to expect of him), and he is a man who fights for his country with blind faith. Except he keeps whining and putting on subplots that only fatten the movie, and the love story is as sustaining as a cardboard lunch.
For what the character is, and could have been, Gyllenhaal does a pretty lovely job. I kept it on and off that train and it kept me engrossed in what happened next. I really wanted it to be successful. Vera Farmiga, who I’d bet the money was only there for her soft voice and devilish beauty, and Jeffrey Wright, who sacrifices his generally soft voice for that of Mr. Moviefone’s evil twin, are there as the people in charge of the show. source code. . Wright is Dr. Rutledge, the creator of the show, and Farmiga is Colleen Goodwin, the woman talking on Skype with Gyllenhaal during her ordeal.
In a movie like this, where science fiction is treated just like that, rather than fact (think Battle: Los Angeles versus, say, Bounty hunter), it’s easy to assume that simply turning off your brain and watching the movie is enough. The questions that are asked in the film about life and reality, and its many variations, are not answered, perhaps because it is not necessary, or perhaps because there are simply no answers. But, for the simple fact that the inquisition is implied, the audience deserves a deeper look at the many truths found in the many realities before us. Each version of the eight minutes that Gyllenhaal goes through is completely the same, but completely different, as the film’s premise grows more urgent. The city of Chicago faces ruin, but the film’s most pressing issue seems to be the love story: a good old man “will or will not” in exchange for thousands of lives being saved. Safe. Let’s go with that.