Review: Source Code (2011)

Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga

Having far surpassed my expectations with his directorial debut, Duncan Jones proved with Moon that even the most simplest of concepts can be molded into a highly engrossing and thought-provoking piece of cinema. With a knack for miraculously humanizing an otherwise straightforward sci-fi driven mystery, Jones did the unthinkable in crafting an altogether wonderful piece of cinema that stood tall as a showcase for star Sam Rockwell’s talents and the fledgling filmmaker himself as a name to watch for in the coming years. His sophomore effort Source Code is just as effective in conveying a sense of unparalleled intelligence while simultaneously allowing us to sympathize with its protagonist’s ongoing struggle to come to terms with his supposed plight.

Source Code‘s central premise, unrefined and even silly as it may seem at first glance, is surprisingly fleshed out and remains interesting enough amid the always tense, suspense-ridden mystery brought about by each and every sequence aboard an ill-fated passenger train en route to downtown Chicago. Repetitive as these scenarios should be, the beguiling logic of the source code itself allows each one of them to be as infinitely entertaining as the next, with subtle alterations in detail thrown in to keep viewers on their toes as they try to piece together clues as they see fit.

It’s this creative flair coupled with Jones’ sensitive, humanistic touches that provide for most of Source Code‘s unrelenting appeal, and to witness the pain and anguish Captain Stevens succumbs to regularly in an attempt to unearth the truth behind his entrapment within a mysterious capsule is nothing short of gut-wrenching. As much as I enjoyed a substantial portion of the film, stumbling across a few slip-ups regarding certain plot elements is inevitable. Obvious issues with plausibility aside, the film becomes more of a character-driven drama than what one would anticipate it to be, meaning those looking for a wholly mind-bending sci-fi experience will be slightly disappointed as key details are either drastically altered or excluded during the film’s latter act.

Having nary a single problem with this outside of a questionable ending: an ending oft discussed within my social circles, a troupe of well above average performances aid in deeming most of Source Code‘s shortcomings negligible, with Gyllenhaal’s arresting charm and charisma coupled with Monaghan’s staggering beauty and poise admirably leading the pack. Chemistry abound and a pair of winning supporting turns from Farmiga and Wright assure Source Code remains compelling throughout, and a noticeable twinge of authenticity pulses within their respective roles to give each interaction with our leading man an appreciable emotional wallop, small as it may be.

As with Moon, director Duncan Jones has successfully and very deftly blended the human with the inhuman, exhibiting as much an interest in our central character’s perpetual, emotionally taxing search for answers as he does the intelligence behind an admittedly fascinating key plot component. While some may brand the film as inconsistent, I felt it was spot-on in maintaining evenness of tone while putting on display just the right amount of emotional poignancy and eccentricity brought about on account of the central premise itself. Both a solid sci-fi thriller and heartrending drama, Source Code has further established Duncan Jones as a talent to be reckoned with, prompting me to expect bigger and better things from him in the (hopefully) near future.

Rating: 8/10

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