Sunday, April 3, 2011

[Insert Groundhog Day Reference Here]: A Review of Source Code

     It's a fact to state that a large number of human beings wish that they had the power to go back to certain time or day in their lives and relive that time or day to fix mistakes that shaped them forever, usually for the worse. I know that it's why I love 1993's classic comedy Groundhog Day (starring--obviously--Bill Murray): don't we all wish that we could live the same day over and over (maybe not for eternity), fixing every mistake, saving lives, gaining and gorging our minds with any conceivable form or knowledge, whether that be mastering the piano or knowing all of the classic works of literature by heart? Source Code, the new film by geek wonder-boy Duncan Jones, who previously directed 2009's wonderful Moon (and who is also the son of David Bowie), transforms the Groundhog Day formula from reliving one full day over and over again to reliving the last 8 minutes of a man's life aboard a Chicago commuter train about to get annihilated by a terrorist attack. It's a smart and effective sci-fi thriller, and although it doesn't quite reach the greatness of the previously mentioned Moon, it's still one of the best films so far in 2011.
     It's impossible to talk about the plot of Source Code without giving away information that would be better left not knowing going into the theater. Similar to last year's best film Inception, the joy is in the journey of discovery. I also avoided the movie's trailers and went in solely on the cred of Duncan's first film. So go ahead and read on if you don't care or have seen the film. If not, so long, and I'll see you in another life, brother.
     A man, played in typical charming and likable fashion by usually poor-choice-of-movie-picker Jake Gyllenhaal, wakes up on a train. He doesn't know how he got on this particular train, or even how he is in America. You see, his name is Colter Stevens, and he is an Army Helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. He's talking to a woman that he's never met (played by Michelle Monaghan, who doesn't do too much more than seem like an honest and likable young woman) but seems to know him. Colter feels sick and goes to the bathroom, only to discover the face in the mirror is not his, but another random man. The viewer, like Colter, becomes confused and disoriented--which is where the fun starts in this whole thing. After 8 minutes the train blows up. In typical sci-fi fashion, a flood of pictures, sounds, and speed-of-light images quickly stream across the screen. Colter then wakes up in some sort of pod that is clearly malfunctioning, speaking into a video monitor to some sort of army scientist.
    Here's where things get crazy and preposterous. However, events unfold so quickly and are so thrilling that you don't really give a shit how the science of the whole thing works: Colter quickly realizes that he is in some sort of experiment to do with the terrorist attack. One of the victim's brains was harvested from the wreckage, and the memory of the last 8 minutes of his life has been implanted onto some sort of source code, allowing Colter to wire in and experience the events like he is actually there. So he goes back. And back. And back again to the final 8 minutes of this man's life, trying to determine where the bomb is and who the bomber is, due to the fact that military intelligence believes that the bomber left the train and is going to strike again. Since Colter is gaining knowledge and remembering all of the past tries, he eventually falls for Monaghan's character, as any hot-blooded throbbing-cocked American man would.
     Eventually, once we learn where Colter actually is during these 8-minute trips, a more human touch enters the film. Is it possible that Colter can alter the fate of the train's passengers, even though they are already dead? Can Colter save the girl who he has fallen in love with? If he stops the explosion, do these people actually live forever in an alternate reality? And if so, where does Colter fit into all of this, since he essentially took over another man's body over and over for the final 8 minutes? It's better not to think about the logistics of all of the quantum mechanics and paradoxes and to just focus on the ever-growing danger of possibly not being able to save people who you have grown to love.     (A-)

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