Romy Shiller

Source Code: Or, To be or Not to be

In Film, review on July 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

(originally published April 26,2011)

Now available on DVD / Blu-Ray

For centuries, man believed that the sun revolves around the earth.  Centuries later, he still thinks that time moves clockwise.

Robert Brault

Director: Duncan Jones

Writer: Ben Ripley

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

I couldn’t resist writing about the film Source Code. It combines two of my absolute favorite subjects – Quantum Physics and Reality. (I’m a geek, right?) This film doesn’t dumb-down or have low expectations for its audience. You do not need to know science to enjoy this film, but if you do you will not feel diminished.

Director Duncan Jones says, “We wanted the audience to be able to enjoy the thriller aspect, and not beat them over the head with the science fiction elements. This is a contemporary thriller that has a few science fiction elements that are necessary to set up the story, but it’s all about Jake and Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga, and then the action that ties it all together.”

The “Source Code” is a computer program that allows someone to enter the last 8 minutes of another person’s life in order to gain perspective on what happened in an effort to prevent future disasters.

Story: An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

Where to start…Duncan Jones. He is the son of David Bowie and the director of the amazing film, Moon (2009). He takes risks and I think that he’s fabulous. Anyhow, he says that this film is a departure for him. “I felt a real responsibility to hopefully deliver something that [fans of “Moon”] could enjoy,” Jones said, “Now I was very, very apprehensive because, although there are similarities between the two films, they’re very different. Pace wise, they are exceedingly different. But fortunately people who loved Moon seem to enjoy this. And I think that they do see that they’re very different kinds of films.”

For Jake Gyllenhaal, it was important to understand the science. “Now, merging consciousness and the synaptic map, the science of that, I don’t know much about. But it was important for me to understand that these concepts made sense and that they could be founded in something real. So it was very important and continues to be. I want the audience to know it’s legitimate, because it is legitimate. It could happen.”

The entire notion of reality is tossed like a salad. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Colter Stevens, thinks he’s in a capsule. He isn’t. So apart from the subject-matter of the film – jumping back in time, in someone else’s body to find the bomber of a train – things are not what they seem.

In my book I write, “I have always believed that we are limited by our senses. We depend on them too much. We imagine we can know “truth.” Curiosity is a good thing, but it’s helpful to acknowledge our limitations. A fish in a fishbowl only knows what a fish in a fishbowl knows, right? I believe we are like the fish. We can only know so much because of our state of being. This does not mean we do not ask the important questions. It just means that our answers might be somewhat skewed. I guess we need to be humble.” (You Never Know: A Memoir pp. 44) Well, this film regards what we can truly know.

Michelle Monaghan is one of the most in-demand women in Hollywood, starring opposite Shia LaBeouf in Eagle Eye and she was in Gone Baby Gone. Monaghan has also starred in the black comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible III. In 2008, she starred in the romantic comedy Made of Honor.

In this film she plays the love interest but more importantly she is a constant. Every time that Colter Stevens wakes up in his new body she’s there.

Vera Farmiga plays Goodwin – Colter Stevens’ guide and connection to the ‘outside’ as he attempts to uncover first-hand who bombed a train. An article commented, “It’s difficult enough for an actor to work off of another highly animated actor. It is another thing entirely to have to act the majority of a film off of a camera alone. That is where actress Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Up in the Air) found herself in Duncan Jones’ Source Code.” “Often, I find it hard to be still,” she admits. “Always, when I get stuck, it’s the thought process [of a character] that I return to.” She claims that she and Jake Gyllenhaal were filmed in separate “realities.” It was a lonely and isolating experience for her. In all cases she appreciates Duncan Jones’ mind-boggling twists, and the ideas of time-travel, alternate realities, and parallel universes.   Works for me.

On Rotten Tomatoes Kevin A. Ranson said, ‘Quantum Leap’ meets Groundhog Day by way of The Matrix... aside from a few predictabilities, Source Code succeeds. It does succeed – very well. Yes, we have seen certain elements before but the combination of them makes this film fresh and unique – really.

It’s similar to when you liken a musical artist to another one or you put a type of music in a genre. There is context in this film but it’s pleasantly exploded. We know that it is sci-fi but it’s distinct. I am going to buy it when it comes out on DVD and watch it over and over again, like I do with Dark City and Groundhog Day. ‘Reality films’work my buzz.

I hear that the filming took place where I live – Montreal. If only I had known. Maybe I could have set up interviews…oh, well. In a parallel dimension I do set up interviews. *sigh*

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online

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