Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Source Code: Grade B


Source Code (2011)

Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga; Director Duncan Jones.

Groundhog Day meets Matrix in this derivative sci-fi thriller. And throw in scenes, images, and ideas from Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable, Inception, and Apollo 13. It’s a pastiche, not original, but good looking and interesting enough to watch.

Military scientists have discovered a way to capture the brain’s brief post-mortem afterglow, and they can augment it with special software (the Source Code) into the illusion of full life for a brief time (8 minutes in this case). So Gyllenhaal does not understand that he is dead. Further, the computer reanimation can be assigned to different times and places (since it is just software, after all). Gyllenhaal is “sent back” in time, to right before he died, on a train heading into Chicago, where he lives a memory as if it were real (per Matrix, Inception, etc.). The train has a bomb on it. Can he find the bomb and the bomber? (Take a guess). He has only 8 minutes. On the train he meets Monaghan and tries to save her, but the train blows up anyway. No problem. He can be sent back again by the army scientist (Farmiga). He goes back repeatedly and blows up repeatedly, but learns a few new details each time, just as in Groundhog Day. Finally he does catch the bad guy, reports his identity to Farmiga, who arrests him in real time.

Gyllenhaal and Farmiga are a pleasure to watch. However, the CGI shots outside the train cabin are so bad they bump you completely out of the story. The explosions are explosive and the music is ordinary. The ending is highly predictable but I won’t give it away in case there are viewers new to this genre. The story is fundamentally weak nonsense, as sci-fi stories usually are. But this one is done well enough to hold frame-to-frame interest and is above average for its type.

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