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Source Code (2011)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/26/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/12/2011
I can only begin to imagine the pressure and stress a director feels when making their first feature film. Even if they've made short films, the enormity of directing a long-form movie must be daunting, especially if the film has a sizable budget. But, what about the second movie? No one wants the dreaded "sophomore slump", and if that first movie was successful (be that financially, critically, or both), the pressure to replicate that success would seem to be crushing. No one wants to be a one-hit wonder, but no one wants their second movie to be a letdown. For Director Duncan Jones, his first film,Moon, was a breath of fresh air in the science-fiction community. How will his second film, Source Code come across?
Source Code opens with Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakening on a moving train, very disoriented. He is seated across from a woman, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), whom he doesn't know, but she acts as if she knows him. Colter catches his reflection in the window and sees a face that he doesn't recognize and Christina keeps calling him Sean. Colter looks around the train and it suddenly explodes. He then awakens again, to find himself in his familiar flight-suit (he's a helicopter pilot) and he's strapped to seat in what looks like a large cockpit. On a video monitor, he can see a solider named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She explains that Colter is part of a military experiment where his consciousness is projected into "Sean", a man who was aboard this train, which was attacked by terrorists. It's up to Colter to use this technology to learn who planted the bomb so that other attacks can be thwarted. Confused and agitated, Colter isn't happy with this assignment, but as he keeps going back to the train over and over again, things begin to come into perspective.
Moon had some original ideas and it featured a powerhouse one-man show from Sam Rockwell, but it really deserved kudos for not being afraid to bring solid science-fiction to the audience while punctuating it with real emotion. Source Code doesn't go as far into science-fiction territory as Moon, but some of it is pretty out there, and it doesn't skimp on the emotional content either.
The script by Ben Ripley takes some big risks right out of the gate. First of all, we must accept that during the scenes on the train, we are seeing Jake Gyllenhaal, but the other characters are seeing "Sean". Then, the movie takes a leap (a Quantum Leap?), as we learn that Colter is really inside of the strange cockpit. The movie then moves into Groundhog Day territory as Colter travels to the train over-and-over again. This is always a risk, as some viewers can quickly get bored or agitated by this. In addition, the "science" in Source Code is a bit dodgy, and doesn't really stick together when you think about it.
Despite these challenges, Source Code works and proves itself to be a good action-adventure. The possible road-bumps in the script are offset by it's impressive structure. Each section of the movie raises new questions and this keeps us hooked. Just when we learn one thing, another mystery arises. In a very interesting move, the primary question is answered near the beginning of the third act, and the movie then takes a new turn. Just as with Moon, Jones' direction is very assured here, and one wouldn't think that he was still a fledgling filmmaker. The bulk of the film is confined to two locations, but Jones uses enough interesting shots to keep things feeling fresh. The movie's pacing also works and the movie rarely drags. The action and science-fiction content are fulfilling enough, but Source Code goes one step further by adding genuine draa to Colter's story as he learns the truth about what is going on around him. Gyllenhaal is good here, as he's able to balance the seriousness of a soldier with the buoyant behavior of a man who realizes that he's spending time in a world where he can do anything. Michelle Monaghan is definitely in a supporting role, but she's very good, and as usual, very likable.
With just two films under his belt, Duncan Jones is well on his way to being the new voice of science-fiction. But, unlike someone like Stanley Kubrick, Jones isn't afraid to let his movies play to the mainstream. Source Code takes a complicated (and again, flawed) sci-fi idea and blends it with action, suspense, and a dose of humor to create a popcorn movie which feels as if it stopped by a college physics department on the way to the screen.
Source Code had a good ending...I think...on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Summit Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The image is never overly dark or bright and the colors look good. The picture has a nice amount of depth, most notably when Colter is moving through the train. Likewise, the level of detail is good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. I really liked this track. The stereo effects during the train scenes are good, as noises are coming from each side of Colter. Likewise, the surround sound effects bring the other sound on the train to life, as well as small sounds in the cockpit, and the explosions come from all around us. These same explosions rock the subwoofer.
The Source Code contains only two extras. The first is an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Duncan Jones, Writer Ben Ripley, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal. The other extra is "Access: Source Code" which offers detailed information on the film via pop-ups and picture-in-picture. These are split into the categories: Focal Points, Expert Intel, Cast and Crew Insights, Did You Know?, and Tales of Time Travel. The controls are somewhat confusing, but there is some good information here.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2011.