Thursday, April 21, 2011

From a Moon to a Code. Jones delivers again!

Despite stiff competition from Star Trek and District 9, Moon was the best science fiction movie of 2009 proving that no matter how much flash, lasers, special effects, explosions and aliens you have in a sci-fi movie it can still be bested by a well written, well acted tale that hearkened back to the days of hard-core sci-fi even on a 10th of the blockbuster budget. Duncan Jones, the man to accomplish this has just brought us his next movie, Source Code and I’m pleased to say he’s still on form.

Jones has taken something as rudimentary as time-travel and wrapped a suitably interesting plot around it in many layers much as he did with cloning in Moon. There is a revelation in the movie but no world-breaking mind-fuck like The Matrix or Inception here. It is a very simple concept that once again follows the human rather than super-human angle too prevalent in modern sci-fi. Jones is a true explorer of the human condition and through the central protagonist Captain Colter Stevens he makes the audience think what we would do rather than show us.

Without delving too much into the plot, Stevens [Jake Gyllenhaal] is being sent back through time in a computer simulation to occupy the body and experience 8 minutes of the life of Sean Fentress, a train passenger before the train is destroyed by terrorists. He must find clues as to who was responsible and can't do it on one run so he constantly has to go back into the simulation to experience the same time period but do things differently with what he learns each previous time. Jones' pacing of the films action as well as both slightly and radically altering the way each 8 minute period plays out is what keeps you glued to this.

Gyllenhaal has come a long way from being the moody weirdo Donnie Darko some 10 years ago now. He was the twerp in The Day After Tomorrow, he made a name for himself in such dogshit as Brokeback Mountain and caught my ire when he portrayed the “blight on the Corps” the whining bitch Cpl. Anthony Swafford in Jarhead. He put in a good turn in the sprawling adventure and longest videogame cutscene ever The Prince Of Persia last year and recently had the enviable pleasure of spending much of his last movie in bed with a naked Anne Hathaway [No I don't know what that was called I just read it had a naked Anne Hathaway]. Source Code is by far his greatest performance to date and he deserves any and all the accolades he recives for his protrayal of Stevens.

Two-time Whopper Award winner Michelle M:I-3 Monaghan is Christina, a friend to Sean Fentress whose body Stevens is occupying and whom he gets to know due to the fact that she's always sitting on the train with him when the simulation resets. Vera The Departed Farmiga is Capt. Goodwin, Stevens' only link to reality while he's "in the machine". Jeffery Casino Royale Wright rounds off the cast with a truly bizarre performance as the laughably effeminate scientist in charge of the Source Code project.

One unkind reviewer elsewhere has slated the movie comparing it to a blatant and horrendous rip off of a modern-day Quantum Leap episode. But the joke is on him as Jones actually cast Scott Bakula himself to cameo-voice Captain Stevens’ father whom we only hear through a phone call which Bakula answers with “Oh God!”… classic! Jones has made no secret of reading British sci-fi comic book 2000AD which is filled with vignettes that explore every theme that sci-fi writers have been imagining since the time of Jules Verne. The basic premise of Source Code may remind you of what you’re read there or perhaps even have seen in Quantum Leap or something like The Outer Limits but it’s not enough to call foul and scream plagiarism. Jones took a script by Ben Ripley [known only for straight to video sequels of the Species franchise] and reworked it to make it his own. He's competent enough to use materiel he’s read to form the genesis of an idea and flesh it out in his own completely unique style and obviously did this with Ripley's script to make it real.

Final Verdict: This is the way science fiction should be made, entertaining and focus on the people not technology with a thought provoking and morally ambiguous ending. So why is there only one person in all of Hollywood doing it?

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

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