Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Filmy Film Review: Source Code

I gave it a must see in the trailer prediction, will Duncan Jones' latest sci-fi thriller live up to the hype?

Plot: Army Captain Colter Stevens finds himself in a capsule causing him to relive 8 minutes of a train accident over and over again in order to find the bomber, twists ensue.

Since I gave this film a "must see" in the prediction I'd like to first talk about what is needed in a movie to actually earn that kind of recommendation from me. Well for starters, I simplify movies into three parts: Writing, Directing, and Acting. While there are so very many other factors that go into making a movie "good" writing, directing, and acting are the three most basic aspects of a movie that immediately shine out to the viewer. So while a movie may do bad in one aspect, the other two aspects can make up for it. Great directing can spice up a stale script, and a great story can shine through an actor's bad performance etc. For a "must see" movie, all three must be great, but even that is not enough; while excelling in writing, directing, and acting, a "must see" movie must also have one more aspect to really set it apart from other movies and that aspect is originality. While a movie can get everything perfect, if it has been done before and that movie does not make itself different enough, then that takes away one of the key things that make a movie special. So for a movie to be truly a "must see" it has to have great writing, directing, and acting, while at the same time be original or different enough from the pack to set it apart. No movie is perfect, but a "must see" film has get the majority of what it wants to do right. So now that you know what I want in a "must see" movie, how does Source Code hold up?

Let's go through my list. First I'll start with acting. The characters grow on you in this film, at first they may seem a little bland minus Jake Gyllenhaal's character, but this is part of how the story develops. What at first seems like dry military talk, becomes clues into each character's motives. There is a surprising amount of character development despite only seeing many of the characters for 8 minutes at a time. While none of the acting jobs are Oscar worthy, it gets the job done and moves the plot nicely.

Now let's move on to the directing. Duncan Jones proves he's not a one hit wonder. With the cult hit Moon under his belt, Jones has taken another whack at the sci-fi genre. With a limited amount of sets, Jones is able to use to the fullest every inch of the space alloted to him by the narrative. With a Groundhogesque story details are important, and Jones does a fine job showing the audience what he wants us to see. The movie flows very nicely and the audience is never left wondering what they are supposed to be looking at in a shot.

Finally, writing. This is my favorite part of the movie. While not completely original in its parts; Groundhog Day plus The Matrix plus a whole gambit of wonderful thought provoking plots, Source Code manages to pull all of its pieces together, without outright plagiarizing its forefathers, and creating its own seamless story.  The story also has some very nicely done twists that are hinted at, but not shouted. I like stories that make you think and ask questions, and Source Code gains major points for having such a story.

So what did this movie get wrong? Like I mentioned before the acting is not outstanding, but it gets the job done, and in some moments the characters shine, but the acting will not be the most memorable thing about this movie. Also some of the characters may seem a little stereotypical (not in a racist way, but in a story cliché way). Part of the ending might be a little Hollywood, but not enough to discredit the rest of the film, and I believe the other part of the ending makes up for it (sorry if that's really vague but there'd be a spoiler if I said any more).

The faults in this film are not nearly enough to take much away. The movie is put together in such a way that good points shine and the faults are hidden. So does this movie live up to my own hype? Yeah.

Must See-Thought provoking plot that makes you think, and deals with philosophical issues as well as sci-fi ones, put together with Jake Gyllenhaal as lead, along with Duncan Jones behind the screen makes for a good movie.

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