Source Code written by Ben Ripley, directed by Duncan Jones
I don’t know if I’m over thinking the equation, but I find it interesting how action blockbusters have become almost synonymous with science-fiction blockbusters. Source Code belongs to that specific class of cinema geared – ostensibly at least – at the prototypical 18- 45 male audience but with enough sincerity to appeal to a wider demographic.
The eponymous source code of the title is a computer generated component controlled by the Air Force, it seems. A soldier caught in that limbo between life and death becomes their key to stopping a serial bomber when he returns to the past in the form of a deceased passenger on the train. It sounds a bit confusing, no? The specificities of how the actual source works belongs to the class of cinematic creations which is just the right amounts of potentially confounding scientific data mixed with a certain amount of improbabilities that the audience is disinterested in and which Ripley delivers with enough sensibility that the fact that its very existence is confounding doesn’t act as a potentially exasperating element. It’s not that Source Code is a “character study” – in the strictest of senses, but it’s focus is less on the source code and more on its protagonist Colter Stevens, and in its confident (yet oddly self-effacing way) Source Code exists as a perfect vehicle for Gyllenhaal’s talents. (Can anyone else pull the name Colter, in the first place?)
When I reviewed Love & Other Drugs at the beginning the year I noted that despite its issues it was a perfect chance for Hathaway and Gyllenhaal to use their natural talents – even if the vehicle was less than solid. Source Code is a different genre, but Jake gets the opportunity to play that special type of hero who’s marked by a sort of stand-offish charm. He’s an everyman, but not a common man and I find I oddly humorous that when his Colter must go back to save the world, he returns in the form of a man who’s about as generic as they come. It’s sort of the paradox that is Jake as an actor. He’s not exceptional, but he has that intangible it factor that makes him much more watchable than a number of his peers, and he easily outshines the cast here.
Farmiga gives a puzzling performance, the first half of which she spends seeming a bit uncomfortable either with the character (or the horrific hair-stylist) but it’s a performance that becomes much more nuanced as the film draws to it close. Wright is as bombastic as needs be, but ends up being a little hollow in the end – even if the performance is hardly affects the film either way. It’s the same with Monaghan’s potential romantic interest, she – as with all the of the supporting cast – is serviceable in that they hardly prevent the film from being enjoyable, but they’re a bit ineffectual in terms of creating indelible characters, not that’s a terrible thing. It’s Jake’s films.
The most significant thing that occurred to me after Source Code was the manner in which contemporary cinema has developed. When our generation was young we were savouring Disney films where that vague concept of magic would give away to a host of impossibilities which were urged to “believe in”. Now that we’re older Disney has been replaced by any random studio, the films are animated no longer and magic has been replaced with science-fiction. Underneath the cantankerousness, I suppose I’m a sentimentalist at heart so I find the development satisfactory.