Review: Source Code (SXSW)
PLOT - A US soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakes to find himself reliving the same eight minutes over and over again in the body of a stranger on a train. At the end of the eight minutes, a bomb explodes killing everyone on board. With only those eight minutes to gather information, he must track down the terrorist all while trying to figure out the mystery of Source Code, the program he's mysteriously involved in.
REVIEW - Director Duncan Jones has followed up his fantastic sci-fi debut MOON with another sci-fi project, only this time, you're being asked to pay slightly less attention to the sci in the sci-fi. The "Source Code" is the name of some top secret government operation that can send the mind of a soldier into an alternate reality but only for eight minutes at a time. If you're looking for logic and reasoning behind why this should work, abandon all hope ye who enter here.
The science behind SOURCE CODE doesn't always make sense, but that doesn't slow down the film much. Gyllenhaal's character spends most of the movie as confused as the audience and just when we're starting to crack wise at the contrivances of the plot, Gyllenhaal beats us to it.
Gyllenhaal leads a cast of talented actors but sadly none of them are given much, if anything, to do during the film but sit back and watch their leading man, usually in a very literal fashion. Michelle Monaghan plays the woman sitting across from the man who's body Gyllenhaal's mind is inhabiting (stay with me now) but we're never really clear what their relationship is. Are they dating? Are they just friends? Co-workers? Who knows but she gives good *confused* and follows him around wondering if everything is OK and why he's acting so weird.
Jeffrey Wright and Vera Farmiga play the workers at the military installation responsible for running the Source Code program and essentially sit in a chair and talk through a webcam for the entirety of the movie. It's like acting via Skype. There are some attempts to flesh out their characters and make them more human but those attempts feel forced and unnecessary. It would be a waste of their talents to be sure, but I think the less we knew about these characters, the better.
But while his castmates don't have much to do, it's Gyllenhaal who's the star here and we're with him on his discovery to find the terrorist bomber who's blowing up trains and threatening to blow up Chicago. It surely has sci-fi overtones, but SOURCE CODE is more of an action film and a slick piece of techno-detective work with a Herrmann-esque score that wraps up in a satisfying climax. The trouble is, that's hardly the end of the movie.
SOURCE CODE hits all the right action movie beats and then inexplicably continues on for another 15 or 20 minutes or so as we're now wrapping up subplot after subplot about romances and daddy issues and soldiers questioning authority and at some point you want this movie to stop trying to be anything more than it is.
Like the commuter train that much of the film takes place on, SOURCE CODE zips along ably before slowing down and eventually running completely off the tracks. It's not a bad film but certainly an overlong one and from a director like Duncan Jones, you may be expecting more.