Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Source Code Review

About a week and a half ago I checked out Source Code, which is actually the first film I've seen in theatres for roughly six months. The film opens as Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens to find himself aboard a train in Chicago instead of on deployment in Afghanistan. What's even crazier is that he's apparently not himself, but rather a school teacher named Sean who's friends with another passenger, the lovely Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan).

Then the train goes boom and Stevens awakens inside some kind of capsule receiving instructions from Captain Colleen Goodwin. You see, Stevens is part of a special project called Source Code in which he's able to go back into the memories of this school teacher named Sean and live out the last 8 minutes of his life. The train has already exploded as part of a terrorist attack and Stevens needs to find who the bomber is before an even larger attack destroys all of Chicago.

Need me to explain that a little more? Basically Source Code kind of reminds me of a cross between The Matrix and Train 48. Anyone remember Train 48? Well the whole Source Code process leaves Stevens regularly disoriented, so he has to keep going back over and over again, being exploded again and again, to try and find who this bomber is. And while he does so, he gets to know the "regulars" of this train trip, who in many respects reminded me of the goofy cast of Train 48. There's the hotshot deal-making guy, the eastern business man, the nerdy college kid, etc.

Oh, and remember how I said that Stevens could only live out this teacher's memory for the last 8 minutes of that teacher's life? Well the film regularly breaks this convention as many of the things Stevens would do in each instance would take longer than 8 minutes. That, combined with the fact that he was able to leave the train and experience things this teacher hadn't and clearly couldn't have known about really worked well at killing my suspension of disbelief. These extra experiences are explained later on, rather unsatisfactorily might I add, but I suppose it technically works. Technically.

What also irked me was how fake the drama and tension of the film were. The whole time the actors are working on how crucial time is, how much is at stake to find this bomber and how Stevens must complete his mission _now_, but it all came across as too forced. Don't just tell me how important things are, show me. Lure me in with additional pieces of information to flesh out the world and the setting and don't just keep showing me non-8 minute 8 minute clips of Stevens messing up on the train.

Let's also not forget about his budding relationship with Christina, which also isn't believable as they end up living out a lie. And by the time the third act hits one's suspension of disbelief really goes out the window as what seemed forced at first now just doesn't work within the confines of the film's own narrative.

As I'm sure you can gather, Source Code didn't do it for me. While it certainly has some entertaining moments and some genuinely funny bits, the whole film is an excellent concept that was poorly executed and leaves a rather unsatisfied taste in one's mouth. At least it's a relatively short film by today's standards weighing in at 94 minutes, which makes sense considering how little the plot really has to run on.

If you haven't seen Source Code in theatres yet, I recommend you hold off until it hits your local TV service. While it's entertaining for an evening, it's honestly not worth the price of admission at any theatre.

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