Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Man on Film: Source Code

Clearly, this is an attempt at catching up. At least this is still in the theaters...

Having quite liked Duncan Jones's 2009 directorial debut Moon, there was certainly cause for hope that Source Code would be better than its trailer may have let on. That isn't to say that the trailer was bad, per se, but well, here.

There's room there for a good movie, but more often than not a film with a trailer like this falls flat and ends up seeming to be derivative of substandard sci-fi fare. Thankfully Source Code is in the former grouping. While the film can hardly be qualified as a masterpiece, it keeps your undivided attention for its entire 93 minutes

While much of its success can be tied to its marriage of Groundhog Day to the dystopic world of Philip K. Dick, Source Code would not have worked without its leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan.

Here Jones has thrown Gyllenhaal into a role in which he could succeed, capitalizing on his  general amiability and boyish charm. In his other ventures into big budget fare, the characters Gyllenhaal was called upon to portray were either outside his wheelhouse or one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. In Colten Stevens, he has found a character that he can imbue with his special brand of affably manic desperation. For some reason, Gyllenhaal seems best suited for roles in which he's tilting at windmills, not quite insanely but holding fast to an irrational hope.

In the form of the female lead, Jones cast a woman who is somehow equal parts model and girl next door, Michelle Monaghan. Having held her own opposite such actors as Robert Downey Jr. and Casey Affleck, she plays well off of Gyllenhaal. Theirs is a chemistry that is instantly believable. The love story is earned and feels natural.

Without giving away too much, the film does manage to tug at the heartstrings from time to time--with Colten's phone call to his father striking a particularly affective chord--while exploring some interesting ethics of science questions not dissimilar from the issues at the heart of Moon. That Jones has now managed to make two science fiction films that are thought-provoking, entertaining, and rife with lighter comedic moments. Each of his films have featured likable protagonists trying to free themselves from the shackles of an ultimately Calvinist state of being, their fates appearing to have been predetermined. This makes for interesting films, two flicks into his career, although a different theme to explore would probably be advisable the third time out so as to not rehash those ideas.

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