Sunday, July 24, 2011

Source Code: Duncan Jones builds on the success of Moon

Source Code (Thriller, Sci-Fi)
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan and Jeffrey Wright

Summit Entertainment | 2011 | 93 min | Rated PG-13 | Released Jul 26, 2011

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

English SDH, Spanish

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Bonus View (PiP)

The Movie 4/5

Director Duncan Jones has had an impressive start to his career. Moon (2009) saw Sam Rockwell turn in a very good performance and Source Code has built on that success. Jones has attracted a wonderful cast and the $32 million budget allows for a more spectacular presentation. Moon reminded me of older classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Source Code feels like a modern story.

The movie is a thriller with a strong science fiction element, but it also plays like a mystery. The opening scene shows Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) on a train in Chicago. When he sees his reflection in the window of the train, it’s not him. Christina (Monaghan), the woman in the opposite seat, calls him Sean. A few minutes later we see the train explode and Stevens wakes up alone in a chamber of some kind.

Jones shows us everything from the viewpoint of Stevens, so we only gradually come to understand the situation. Stevens is part of an experimental project which enables him to inhabit the body of somebody else. The project is led by Dr. Rutledge (Wright) and Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga).

They can only communicate with Stevens by using a camera and a computer screen. He’s told that he must find out where the bomb is and uncover the person responsible for planting it. He can’t avoid the explosion, but the information could prevent a future disaster involving the bomber. He can only inhabit the body of Sean for eight minutes at a time. So we see Stevens trying to gather information. Each time the train explodes, the pattern resets and he tries again. It’s like a blend of Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap.

We have a race against the clock to prevent further terrorism and that keeps us on the edge of our seats. There’s also the chance of romance between Sean and Christina, as well as great special effects. Comedian Russell Peters provides most of the comic relief. This package has plenty to keep us hooked. At the outset I expected one of the twists to be that Sean turns out to be the bomber, but I was wrong. Couldn’t Stevens simply take over the body of the bomber on his next visit once he found out who it was, or does the technology only allow you to access people who are “compatible” with you?

Put yourself in that position for a moment. If you were a train passenger tasked with uncovering the identity of a bomber, how would you proceed? Would you be polite to total strangers as you questioned them? How about contacting the guard and explaining the situation? Whatever course of action you choose, the train will explode in eight minutes (unless you locate and disarm the bomb). That allows Jones to break the established rules somewhat. If the pattern resets each time, he can do anything. Sean can be rude, engage in criminal activity, or follow incredibly dangerous courses of action. He could even kill or be killed. That makes the movie less predictable than most.

I won’t reveal what does happen, but hopefully I’ve described the situation well enough for you to know whether you’ll like the movie.

The movie raises some serious themes such as how the line between right and wrong can become blurred. In a sense it also deals with the issue of slavery, just as Moon did.

Jones has produced another interesting idea and turned it into a thrilling story. The four main actors turned in good performances and the whole thing worked well for me. I’m a fan of the whole Groundhog Day concept and enjoy Run Lola Run for the same reason. There have also been episodes of The X-Files and Star Trek Next Generation dealing with the same concept.

Video Quality 4.5/5
I detected slight aliasing on a couple of overhead shots of the city, but it’s only there for a second or two. Colors look bright and clear, although red tint is slightly enhanced in facial shots. Detail is strong throughout, especially in close-ups. This is a pleasing transfer and exactly what you would expect from a recent release.

Audio Quality 4.5/5
There’s a lot going on in Source Code and the English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track handles everything well. The explosions carry real weight and the ambient effects, such as coffee spilling, are easy to detect. The dialogue is clear throughout and the score adds to the atmosphere of the movie.

Special Features 2.5/5

Audio Commentary with Director Duncan Jones, Writer James Ripley and Actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

Access Source Code – A PiP feature including comments from cast and crew as well as trivia and expert comments on time travel. While the navigation was a little annoying, the features offer plenty of information once accessed.

I don’t think it matters whether the plot is airtight; it’s a piece of entertainment. This is a movie that can be enjoyed as an action thriller, but it could attract others due to the science fiction or romantic elements. For those that like to think, the science fiction elements definitely provide food for thought. I enjoyed Source Code in the theater and am happy to finally have it in my collection. The Blu-ray presentation is worthy of the excellent story.

Overall score 4/5 

Click here to see where Source Code ranks among my Top 20 science fiction movies.

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