Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011) April 9, 2011Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Sci-fi, War.
Written by Ben Ripley
Directed by Duncan Jones
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan
First five minutes of Source Code and I am all ready to call it the best movie of the year. That part when Jake Gyllenhaal enters the bathroom, looks at the mirror, and sees a different person: that can only come from a whiz. Duncan Jones handles suspense like picking a fresh pineapple from a farm, slicing and canning it in less than a minute. Swift and no-nonsense. No profound ideas, no quirky setup, no cleverness, no inception. Just carrying through a brilliant idea without too much posturing and panache. Imagine Groundhog Day with a whole lot of wires and explosions, starring a drop-dead gorgeous Bill Murray.
Although the themes of both films are like chalk and cheese, Moon and Source Code actually share a striking resemblance. There’s a man at the center, a man whose fate is uncertain, a man who’s trapped inside a chamber. Incidentally, he’s also a man whose doom is inevitable. In both films, there is an uncanny fixation on possibilities, rooted in science but whose effects are totally anthropological, more humane than humanistic, less emotive than emotional. Furthermore, there exists a voice. Kevin Spacey’s Gerty, not for purposes of irony, is more dependable than Sam Bell, the same way that Vera Farmiga, whose voice we first hear before seeing her face, has control over Jake, keeping the narrative of Source Code moving because of the information she knows.
We hold onto her not because we are forced to, but because we want to. In the context of the entire “experiment” and in the aftermath of her decision to break a rule, she is the most crucial person in Jake’s life. Her action is ultimately the reason for that feeling of levity at the end, that expression of disbelief as we see ourselves giving in to the cruelty of it all. That dramatic slo-mo freeze sequence lingers a bit but never for a fraction of a second it looks insincere. Jones presents these possibilities, but in the grand scheme of things, when time comes that these opportunities are provided, these wishful ideas no longer seem important. Too many forks in the road, and less time to reflect on priorities.
I do not exaggerate when I say that Jones’ two films remind me of Kubrick’s best works. In Moon it’s quite obvious. But in Source Code, it is really the technical dexterity that leaves teethmarks. Style and substance manage to mean the same thing, no questions asked, because they really do. The music participates in the action but rarely does it give an impression of self-importance. The camera movements are intricately choreographed, every scene seems to happen in the corner of your eye, and little details work their way through your memory. Kubrick is a master of form, and Jones, come three or four films of the same caliber, is surely becoming one too. In my opinion, the most remarkable praise given to Full Metal Jacket is when someone called it a “pacifist movie,” which, on the surface of the statement, is quite similar to calling Salo a “very spiritual film.” Almost on the same line of thinking, Source Code is actually one of the best antiwar movies ever made, one whose sentiments are more directed towards people in military uniforms than men in lab coats. But that’s quite obvious too.