Thursday, August 15, 2013

Source Code; A Review of a New Film by Duncan Jones

Source Code ~ Jake Gyllenhaal _ Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind
"Tell Me Everything is Going to Be Okay?"

If you look up the definition of the term 'Source Code' in the dictionary, you will find something that goes like this: "A text listing of commands to be compiled or assembled into an executable computer program." I spent many years in the computer programming industry so when I heard that Duncan Jones was calling his new film Source Code I was immediately puzzled. However, as the film unfolds, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal's character develops in the film I was unquestionably intrigued. Michelle Monaghan plays a virtual ghost image of a woman who earlier died that day in an explosion on a Chicago commuter train. Jeffrey Wright stars as Dr. Rutledge, a somewhat sadistic scientist, and Vera Farmiga star as Capt. Colleen Goodwin, an Air Force officer assigned to act as liaison between Rutledge and Gyllenhaal's Capt. Colter Stevens character. This is Duncan Jones's second film, with "Moon" being his first. Although an excellent story, "Moon" was was also exceptionally well directed, acted and edited, however, made little money at the box office. "Source Code" is rated PG-13, and although there is violence, Jones plays it down by using it only to advance the story, the acting, and the film's pacing.
Suddenly, waking up disoriented, after dozing on the morning ride into Chicago, and on his way to work, Gyllenhaal's character is confused, as a pretty woman across from him says,
"I took your advice. It was very good advice."
Confused he tells the woman that she has him mistaken for someone else. He introduces himself as Capt. Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot stationed out in Afghanistan. A series of events takes place that will burn in the audience's mind. A woman spills some coffee; the pretty woman he was talking to whose name is Christine (Monaghan), and her cell phone rings with a call from her ex-boyfriend; the conductor asks for his ticket. Dazed and confused, Colter excuses himself from his morning commuting partner to go to the bathroom and splash some water on his face and get a hold of himself. While in the bathroom; Colter Stevens sees a face in the mirror that is not himself. We all do from time to time, but this time is more unsettling for him than usual. Checking his driver's license, only to find that his name is Sean Fentress; Stevens exits the restroom, Christine greets him, and they talk briefly, and then the scene explodes in a fiery blast.
Colter Stevens wakes from the horrific experience in a dark room, strapped into a chair that seems to be from the Middle-Ages, in a room, where the equipment is advanced but in a state of disrepair. A video screen comes on, and the image of a woman Air Force officer appears and starts badgering Colter with questions.
"Did you find who the bomber is?" 
Thrown off by the explosion, the confusion of the train encounter with the stunning woman in the train, and disorientation of not recognizing the cockpit of the vehicle he's strapped into. Again the woman questions him about the bomber. Adhering to a military protocol that he's familiar with; Stevens requests that he speak to his commanding officer, and questions who this woman works for.
"Beleaguered Castle" is Goodwin's (Farmiga) reply.
"There is a hydraulic fluid leak" Stevens says.
"That is irrelevant." Goodwin says sharply.
Goodwin starts a pattern recognition sequence, quoting the following,
"Lily awoke in an evening dress in an outbrook look. In her hand were 5 playing cards."
A series of five playing cards appear on his screen, and after briefly showing them, Goodwin asks Stevens to repeat them. After jogging his memory, Stevens is told that he must go back and focus on finding who the bomber is. Realizing that this must be a simulation of some sort, Stevens goes along with Goodwin; while he just wants some details. In the background, we find that Dr. Rutledge's (Wright) mad scientific experiments have led him to utilizing that last latent memories of a dead man. Interpreting the last 8 minutes of residual images up till the time of death, Rutledge turns this data into strings of code, naming it the "Source Code." Now remember the definition of Source Code. The code is compiled by a computer, which in turns uses this data. In this case, it seems that Capt. Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan is the compiling computer. Each time the Capt. Is sent back he discovers, by process of elimination, and observation, where the bomb is and who the bomber is. Each time, he dies a horrible death, only to awake painfully, frightened and confused. Stevens also finds himself drawing closer and closer to Christine. Rutledge is a sadist, not caring for Stevens feelings, he sends him back to the torture of knowing that he can't save Christine or any of the other passengers; only to die the same horrible death each time.

Source Code ~ Capt. Colter Stevens - Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind

Jake Gyllenhaal is likable  convincing with his two day-old facial hair, and cheap suit of a school teacher. We find that throughout the years, while commuting on Chicago's train into the city; Fentress has come to know many of the regular passengers including Christine. We also realize that Sean the school teacher is boring. Stevens starts trying to save Christina from certain disaster and eventually find out his fate, the fate of Capt. Stevens, who regrets leaving for the military with anger in his heart for his father. One of the themes of Source Code is redemption, and Colter Stevens dearly wants to redeem himself with his father and tell the man he is sorry and that he loves him. By the end of the film, Goodwin finds herself also seeking redemption, for her participation in the sin of experimenting with wounded soldiers compelled to do the bidding of the state. Another theme that is both in Source Code and in Moon is that of people as property. First what constitute people? Are clones property? Are military officers the property of the state? Once again altered realities as in Inception, play a vital role in Source Code, but there is more. Michelle Monaghan's character Christine is, for Stevens, the actual goal. Finding the bomb, diffusing it, and finding out who the bomber, is become secondary to Stevens mission. What Steven's sees is only a side effect of "parabolic calculus" and quantum physics. Thank God writer Ben Ripley's script doesn't go into much scientific gobbledygook that would just interfere with the pacing of a story. We know just enough to go along.
Almost all great stories have the theme of love, and Source Code does too. What isn't counted on by Rutledge, played expertly by Wright, is Capt. Stevens' spirit to live and to love. The love that grows between Christine and Stevens/ Fentress that starts fresh with fondness, then care and then into something akin to love that is not sappy or melodramatic, but believable. Credit for making this happen goes to both Jones and to Monaghan. Monaghan, who plays Christine with a subtlety that, is perfect for this type of action - thriller - romance. Kudos goes to Jones for the subtle looks, and clues that he slowly reveals about the dead Christine. Memory is also a central theme. Stevens' apparent amnesia and slow recollection of his past events in his "real" life; give the audience a clue into a world that, although is dreamlike, but also is alterable. Exploring alternative realities, Jones delves into the possibility of one world crossing over into the next. While scientists like Rutledge explore the possibilities that Quantum Physics offers, which thankfully still fall squarely in the domain of Science Fiction. Because I believe, as is shown in Source Code, that the ability for man's technological ability far surpasses man's conscience and his soul. I like Source Code and I like the combination of both Jake and Michelle as a screen couple. I also like Vera Farmiga's role as an officer and a lady with a conscience. Jones is careful and deliberate, but doesn't allow too many details to detract from the story or the pacing I also liked that in spite of being installed with the "Source Code," Capt. Colter Stevens still controls his own destiny. See it as a date film in the theater, or when it arrives on DVD and Blu-ray, "Source Code" is worth watching.

Movie Data

Genre:  Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year: 2011 
Staring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga,Jeffrey Wright
Director: Duncan Jones
Producer(s): Mark Gordon, Philippe Rousselet, Jordan Wynn
Writer: Ben Ripley
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: 4/1/2011
Originally Posted on: Yahoo Voices on 4/20/2011

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