Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Source Code

14 April 2011 by Nicholas in Films

Source Code is a science fiction film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Duncan Jones. It appears to be set in the current day or not too distant future, as all the fashions and consumer electronics are consistent with the world in which we live and there is nothing jarringly out of place.

The film opens with the protagonist awaking with a start, to find he doesn’t recognise his surroundings or travelling companion (he is on a train) and, as he tries to get his bearings, the train around him explodes. He awakes with a start to find himself in a small containment pod where it is explained to him that he will keep reliving the events on the train over and over until he identifies the bomber in the hope of preventing further catastrophe.

Much of the film hinges on the invention of the script in re enacting the same events over and over but keeping them interesting and the performance of Gyllenhaal. The film never feels claustrophobic (apart from when it sets out to) and deftly handles tone and mood.

As the film progresses we learn more about Gyllenhaal’s military character, which has repercussions for how he approaches his mission on the train. Both his realities dovetail into each other and affect his behaviour, with what happens in one affecting what he does in the other.

It is the more militaristic of the scenarios which features the strongest acting and character development, probably because it is more static and less reliant on events. Vera Farmiga plays a character torn between her duty and what she believes to be right, with human responses and uncertainty. She actually seems real and is a sympathetic and believable character. Jeffrey Wright is vain and officious and self serving, but still has depth and human weaknesses and strength.

This is not to say that the train comes across as noticeably unrealistic or shallow: the supporting characters on the train feel like actual people
and have personality traits on display. They just don’t have the time or space to have actual arcs.

The film has an undercurrent of optimism and is positive, despite the occasional darkness of the material it contains. It’s enjoyable but has a real emotional heart and strong performances with considered writing. And it is done with real style and is engaging and convinces you of it’s reality and plausibility, even if the premise and execution falls apart under scrutiny. I genuinely loved it and look forward to watching it repeatedly on DVD, but it’s the emotional resonance rather than logic and coherence that makes it such a good film.