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Thursday, April 14, 2011  

M. Ovie Reviews: Source Code

Okay, first of all, didn't see Moon.. Meant to. Didn't. Probably will someday. Not today. Let's move on.

I saw Duncan Jones's second feature, Source Code, with Febrifuge the other night. We both liked it. He may have liked it more than me, having a) seen Jones's first movie Moon and b) being a former daily passenger on Chicago Commuter Rail.

That second fact is relevant because a CCR train provides much of the setting for the movie. At the very beginning, Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up aboard it and is thoroughly disoriented until the train blows up eight minutes later. The end.

Okay, obviously not. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and the crew of the Enterprise in that ST:TNG episode with Frasier, our hero has to keep reliving a specific period of time until he gets it right. The difference here is that there's an external clock to an even worse disaster, and that external clock is running out. Which, really, is necessary, because as we learn early on, this disaster he's reliving isn't something that can be averted, because it's already happened. As much as Jake resists the idea, he might as well watch Romeo and Juliet on repeat and keep hoping this is the time she'll wake up soon enough. Which nobody I know ever did, how about you?

The movie actually takes place in three worlds. There's the train, and there's the place Jake Gyllenhaal returns to between train rides, and there's the sort of Mission Control where Vera Farmiga plays his Capcom with just enough repressed sympathy and Jeffrey Wright is the brilliant but cold-hearted scientist whose fussiness crosses the line into creepy. And it's quite impressive that we're constantly interested in what happens in all three of them. There are several points where Jake goes a littleā€¦let's just say "off-task," but it's not as annoying as it might otherwise be, because hey, we're curious too. That's tricky to pull off.

Really, the only thing that doesn't really work for me is the love story. Jake falls in love with his seatmate by living the same eight minutes with her over and over, which, okay, but it's a little hard to see how she'd develop similar feelings given that for her, each time is the first. Which I'm not saying she does, because that would be a spoiler, and I avoid spoilers.

Some people think that a sci-fi thriller lives or dies on the premise, and I don't think that's necessarily the case, because this is a pretty good movie even though the premise is almost entirely nonsense. If we accept the possibility of accessing and then reliving someone else's final eight minutes of life through their (incinerated, mind you) brain, maybe we can also accept the possibility of playing around inside those memories, and interacting with a somehow independent world that exists inside those memories, and possibly, if we're pushing it, causing people and things to react differently and learning things and going places the original person never could have learned or gone, but that's it. And then Source Code goes further than that anyway, to the point where at the end you're not entirely sure what happened. And not in an Inception-top way, either.

Also, if this technology existed, I think they'd beta-test it by solving a few simple murders before relying on it to resolve a major Homeland Security crisis, but maybe that's just me. Besides, that would be a TV series, and we already had Quantum Leap.

posted by M. Giant 8:07 PM 3 comments


Jake's seatmate knew, and had a crush on, the guy whose mind he was inhabiting, so I can buy that she'd like Jake-as-other-guy too. Yeah, Jake wasn't acting like that guy always did, but she'd just see that as another layer to Original Guy's personality. Basically, she had all those previous feelings to fall back on; she wasn't literally falling for some guy in eight minutes.

By Anonymous Amy M., at April 14, 2011 at 9:14 PM  

Chicagoans: you've already realized there's no such thing as "Chicago Commuter Rail" or its snazzy CCR logo; if I'd been a daily passenger on that, I would have driven my classmates nuts with humming "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Fortunate Son" on a daily basis. But whole big sections of this movie take place on what is obviously a Metra train bound for Union Station. It seems to be one of the west-end lines, complete with Dunkin Donuts in one of the cars. When I lived in Chicagoland for grad school, I mused about using a Metra car for a concert, a play, or a movie set. Apparently so did screenwriter Ben Ripley.

And from a sci-fi POV, M.Giant and I haven't really hashed out all the details and discussed things - it was a later show, so the beers were pre- rather than post-film - but methinks he worries too much about the concept. It totally works, even if you do think about it.

As to TV? Kind of Quantum Leap, sure, but lots of Seven Days too.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at April 15, 2011 at 9:13 AM  

The producers paid Metra a good amount of money to shoot outside scenes of its trains for the movie, but apparently didn't want the Metra name used. Stupid, since we all *know* its Metra anyway.

Interior train car scenes, however, were shot on a soundstage (in Canada, I think).

For more Chicago-area action, look for the Western Springs BNSF line station in Contagion with Matt Damon (coming soon).

By Blogger Bunny, at April 15, 2011 at 10:03 AM  

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