Directed by Duncan Jones. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, this week’s winner of the brain-is-the-most-powerful-computer films is Source Code (the other contender being the simplistic but visually dazzling Limitless). Just like you had long discussions about whether the top fell off the table at the end of the highly popular (and in my opinion overrated) blockbuster Inception, you’ll have a bit of a discussion on the quantum physics at play in Source Code.
I for one am loving it. Supernatural thrillers with a twist. The Adjustment Bureau started off as a drama but when it turned into ‘alien’ territory I was a bit taken aback. Thankfully I was pleasantly taken aback. Limitless, though pretty simplistic in its approach — pop a pill and become brainy — was brilliant on the eyes though the concept needed a booster shot. And now we have Source Code that starts off mysteriously enough to grab your attention and keep you guessing.
Jake Gyllenhaal once again tries his hand at leading man status (his attempts haven’t always been successful especially with image changes like Prince of Persia) as Captain Colter Stevens who finds himself on a train bound for Chicago but remembers himself fighting in Afghanistan only moments ago. And a mysterious young lady called Christina (Monaghan) sitting across him keeps calling him Sean but he doesn’t even know her. Sadly, he doesn’t get the time to figure it out because during his bout of discombobulation a terrorist bomb goes off. Everyone dies but Capt Stevens finds himself strapped into a military pod being talked to by people calling themselves Beleaguered Castle. So he’s not dead then. Or is he?
Captain Goodwin (Farmiga) and the mysterious Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) aren’t telling him anything unless the mission is completed. “Where am I?” he pleads. “That’s classified,” she retorts. “Am I alive?” he wonders. “Complete the mission first and then you’ll find out,” she sorta implies. What’s brilliant is that very little ‘scientific’ detail is given out or rather it is given piecemeal. Capt Stevens has to go back to the source code scenario again and again into the mind of a teacher called Sean on the train just 8 minutes before it explodes. His goal: to find the bomber and avert an even bigger terrorist attack on Chicago. As the scene repeats he goes from recklessly beating up random passengers he thinks are the bombers to confidently piecing together the clues in order to save the train and more importantly, Christina, his charming short-time train companion.
Duncan Jones has very effortless built up tension, suspense and drama over a period of just 90 minutes. There’s never a dull moment like I experienced in the probably more popular film Limitless. Sure you have to suspend some disbelief when you realise a half-dead, crippled soldier’s brain is being utilised to get inside someone else’s brain to avert future calamities. But the filmmakers have used their brains in this film (unlike in Limitless) to craft and edit an amazing story. Gyllenhaal’s trapped, confused, helpless Capt Stevens doesn’t become a Bruce Willis-type hero saving the day. Those eyes we fell in love with in Brokeback Mountain convey the fear, puzzlement and ultimately chutzpah wonderfully. You sympathise, empathise and connect with what is essentially, the soul of a man.
Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) is a weirdly wonderful talent who starts off stone cold and distant but gradually warms up to Capt Stevens’ character. Monaghan is sufficiently cute and pleasing not to distract from the events at hand so that while you could say Source Code is a love story in a way, you could never call it a romance.
Now my ex-colleague (Filmfare) and good friend Rachit Gupta did leave the screening wondering about certain anomalies in the time-space continuum. Should a film have a simple premise, be sufficiently entertaining and that’s it? Or would we like watching films with slightly over-complicated concepts that immerse us even though we can’t fully understand the complexities? Points to ponder. I for one would take Source Code’s phenomenal concept and craftsmanship over the faux slickness and frankly brainless plotline of Limitless any day.