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Source Code – Duncan Jones' next movie


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That is good to hear as is all the positive reviews coming out of SXSW (although it is often hard finding bad reviews out of that festival). After the trailers I had lowered my expectations, not because it looked bad but it looked a rather run-of-the-mill sci-fi action film.

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The Guardian say that while it could have been disappointing that he's ploughed straight into the mainstream instead of sticking with more artful sci-fi, it's a thrilling film with a great lead performance, and the whole thing works really well. Here's hoping.

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I was one of those that made fun of the trailer when it came out but just watched the first 5mins and want to watch more. Hopefully those WERE the first 5mins? I like the idea that it just gets straight to the point, makes me curious where it will go. Doubt it will be 'Inception' but it looks like a good quality thriller which is a nice rare treat these days.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a film of many contradictions: The thriller element of the story is unrelenting, exciting and always pulls the story forward but you'll guess whodunnit almost immediately. The majority of the characters are little more than crudely sketched stereotypes yet you care and root for the important ones in the story. Finally, the romantic angle is impossible to truly develop because of the constraints of the concept yet it works by becoming the heart of the film. Most of the time contradictions in film are a weakness and a flaw yet here they add greatly to the experience.

If this film had been made in the '90s it would have starred Keanu Reeves and involved considerable re-writes so the thriller aspect of the story became the sole point of the narrative. The end result would have still been engaging but significantly weaker because of it. The story needed an actor of the calibre of Jake Gyllenhaal for it to work. He has been in an awful lot of rubbish but he manages to straddle the line between action star and credible actor very well. He is the heart of the film and without his performance (arguably his best yet) the finished product could have been very different. Despite the ticking clock thriller component being the thing that will get audiences into the theatre it is the emotional journey that will keep people sitting there. The bomb plot itself is handled well, returning to the same eight minutes provides the layers and momentum needed for you to care about the plight of Colter Stevens and the girl he keeps trying to save. Yet for all the twists and turns the villain of the piece is both obvious and, more importantly, redundant to the story. The script and Duncan Jones manage some great misdirection to allow the emotional journey and romantic possibility to creep up on you rather than clumsily throw it in just so an action film has something for the ladies too. It is not so much that the character revelations will come as a surprise but that when they do come they work so well. Above all it is a character driven story masquerading as something that is plot driven.

Jones does a good job breathing life and energy into a set-up that could have been very static. The film only really contains two locations - train and source code machine - and despite being billed as an action/sci-fi film, genuine action is surprisingly absent from the screen. Yet Jones keeps things always moving forward, there is never a moment where it sags and it pleasing to see him have enough faith in his actors and script to maintain an audience's interest rather than throw visual tricks at the screen every five seconds like Tony Scott inevitably would have. Gyllenhaal is ably supported by both Farmiga (transcending her duty vs morals story function) and Monaghan who has the hardest job of all by needing to be an engaging romantic foil yet only ever existing within the same eight minutes (so no real backstory, no revelations and continually repeating the same moments yet being convincing enough that Colter could still fall in love with her). They are pretty much the only two women in the film and provide the sense of hope, humanity and compassion that Colter's character needs. The rest of the men on the other hand are there to serve the plot and nothing more. This is fine with most of the ones on the train but it is disappointing that Jeffrey Wright's character is so one-dimensional and predictable and Wright's performance only compounds this.

As a film it probably won't appear on too many 'best of year' lists but if you want an exciting film with surprising heart then you could do much worse than this.

*** 1/2

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Coming after Sucker Punch the only way was up, and this was highly enjoyable. I have nothing more to say, as Lordcookie has conveyed enough in his post that anything I offer will be little more than 'i like when the train blew up'.

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This is a film of many contradictions: The thriller element of the story is unrelenting, exciting and always pulls the story forward but you'll guess whodunnit almost immediately. The majority of the characters are little more than crudely sketched stereotypes yet you care and root for the important ones in the story. Finally, the romantic angle is impossible to truly develop because of the constraints of the concept yet it works by becoming the heart of the film. Most of the time contradictions in film are a weakness and a flaw yet here they add greatly to the experience.

If this film had been made in the '90s it would have starred Keanu Reeves and involved considerable re-writes so the thriller aspect of the story became the sole point of the narrative. The end result would have still been engaging but significantly weaker because of it. The story needed an actor of the calibre of Jake Gyllenhaal for it to work. He has been in an awful lot of rubbish but he manages to straddle the line between action star and credible actor very well. He is the heart of the film and without his performance (arguably his best yet) the finished product could have been very different. Despite the ticking clock thriller component being the thing that will get audiences into the theatre it is the emotional journey that will keep people sitting there. The bomb plot itself is handled well, returning to the same eight minutes provides the layers and momentum needed for you to care about the plight of Colter Stevens and the girl he keeps trying to save. Yet for all the twists and turns the villain of the piece is both obvious and, more importantly, redundant to the story. The script and Duncan Jones manage some great misdirection to allow the emotional journey and romantic possibility to creep up on you rather than clumsily throw it in just so an action film has something for the ladies too. It is not so much that the character revelations will come as a surprise but that when they do come they work so well. Above all it is a character driven story masquerading as something that is plot driven.

Jones does a good job breathing life and energy into a set-up that could have been very static. The film only really contains two locations - train and source code machine - and despite being billed as an action/sci-fi film, genuine action is surprisingly absent from the screen. Yet Jones keeps things always moving forward, there is never a moment where it sags and it pleasing to see him have enough faith in his actors and script to maintain an audience's interest rather than throw visual tricks at the screen every five seconds like Tony Scott inevitably would have. Gyllenhaal is ably supported by both Farmiga (transcending her duty vs morals story function) and Monaghan who has the hardest job of all by needing to be an engaging romantic foil yet only ever existing within the same eight minutes (so no real backstory, no revelations and continually repeating the same moments yet being convincing enough that Colter could still fall in love with her). They are pretty much the only two women in the film and provide the sense of hope, humanity and compassion that Colter's character needs. The rest of the men on the other hand are there to serve the plot and nothing more. This is fine with most of the ones on the train but it is disappointing that Jeffrey Wright's character is so one-dimensional and predictable and Wright's performance only compounds this.

As a film it probably won't appear on too many 'best of year' lists but if you want an exciting film with surprising heart then you could do much worse than this.

*** 1/2

You put that far better than I ever could have. But yes, it's a tight film, and it's quite smart. I thought that it might try and spring some cheesy 'unforseen' revelations that lesser movies would be proud to call plot twists, but instead it just avoids these tropes and works them seamlessly into the story.

There's nothing wrong with the film, although it did feel a bit light on the action.

7/10.

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saw this earlier - after the first 10 mins thought it was going to be an awesome sci fi groundhog day, then it kind of lost its way..worth a watch, bad ending I thought..should have gone for more of a bleak game over, instead it dragged on a bit in an attempt to manufacture a nice outcome...6/10 I reckon..same as Limitless ( promising initially then no idea where to take the story)

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Saw this tonight and really liked it. Had a lot more heart than I was expecting, and the ending kept the group of people I saw the film with talking long after we'd left the cinema. It was always interesting/gripping and had some really nice moments. I particularly loved the

mellow-ish winding-down of the final act, where Colter/Sean knew what to do to save the train and just got his new, artificial/parallel life in order. Lovely.

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I thought this was hugely enjoyable. I was surprised to find it so character-focused. That's not to say there's not a good sci-fi plot at the centre - there is - but it doesn't lose sight of the fact that the viewer needs to care about the characters' plight. So for this reason I much preferred Source Code to Inception, which spent ages explaining the rules of its world, a world which ultimately I didn't buy into.

It made me really happy for Duncan Jones, who just sounds like such a regular geek from his tweets. Source Code is definitely a much more of a standard Hollywood thriller than Moon, but it's brilliantly executed. I really hope he gets to continue to make films like this. He does seem to be on a parallel track with Nolan - the classy, realistic style of SC is reminiscent of Nolan's recent stuff.

I thought the ending was very good. It really teeters on the edge of

cheese for while, with some of the dialogue being a bit cringey, but thanks to Jake it all comes off. I even felt slightly teary. There are some lovely touches. The slow-mo explosion on about the third run through, and the freeze frame as he passes eight minutes were both wonderful.

I'm surprised lordcookie said he guessed the culprit so quickly. I didn't at all. Though, with the concept being sky-high, I was open to the possibility of all sorts of twists. The 'who planted the bomb' thing ended up being quite straightforward.

One thing I really could have done without was that last line though. Everyone with half a brain will know what's happening when the action cuts back to the lab, and Goodwin goes to see Jeffrey Wright in his office. It's all fine, and you're thinking "nice!" then, in what I assume was a line shoehorned in by the studio, Wright says "soon we'll find a crisis suitable to test the Source Code!!!". Which was a real facepalmer.

Facile summary: better than Inception, not as good as Moon :)

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Lightah, yeah, I liked the ending. It gave the film a completely different mood/feel from your usual thriller endings, which is why I liked it.

One thing I really could have done without was that last line though. Everyone with half a brain will know what's happening when the action cuts back to the lab, and Goodwin goes to see Jeffrey Wright in his office. It's all fine, and you're thinking "nice!" then, in what I assume was a line shoehorned in by the studio, Wright says "soon we'll find a crisis suitable to test the Source Code!!!". Which was a real facepalmer.

I actually liked that particular line a lot, as a character moment.

Rutledge is clearly very pompous and concerned with his own advancement more than anything, and it put a cap on his character nicely - it seemed both a very self-consciously 'heroic' thing for him to say, but also with a complete lack of self-awareness about the human cost involved (both for Stevens and the hundreds on the train who would have died if the attack hadn't been foiled).

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saw this earlier - after the first 10 mins thought it was going to be an awesome sci fi groundhog day, then it kind of lost its way..worth a watch, bad ending I thought..should have gone for more of a bleak game over, instead it dragged on a bit in an attempt to manufacture a nice outcome...6/10 I reckon..same as Limitless ( promising initially then no idea where to take the story)

You mean the ending where

Colter stole another man's life? And the same thing is going to happen again and again? So we'll have Colter invaded bodies everywhere? That ending is happy?

Fucking sinister is what it is!

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I'm surprised lordcookie said he guessed the culprit so quickly. I didn't at all. Though, with the concept being sky-high, I was open to the possibility of all sorts of twists. The 'who planted the bomb' thing ended up being quite straightforward.

I clocked it the very first time the student handed him his wallet and so confident was I that it was him I didn't even bother looking for other clues or culprits. Admittedly I would have looked a bloody mug if I had been wrong but thankfully that didn't happen. The reason I suspected him as soon as he appeared on screen was three-fold:

- His first scene is quite a long one yet you never really get a look at his face.

- Most thrillers use misdirection so having the culprit off the train was a logical extension of this.

- Having seen the trailers it is clear that Colter is supposed to stop another bomb(s) going off which meant, as long as they weren't all timed, that the bomber would survive the train explosion which meant he probably wasn't on it when it went off.

The beauty of the film is that working out the bomber within the opening few minutes didn't remotely affect my enjoyment. Sure, maybe I deprived myself of some enjoyable detective work that you get with thrillers but the ride and emotional journey was so much more engaging it really didn't matter. The film doesn't even treat the bomber as the main drive of the story in the end, as soon as he works out who it is he apprehends him pretty quickly and the film still has another twenty minutes to go.

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You mean the ending where

Colter stole another man's life? And the same thing is going to happen again and again? So we'll have Colter invaded bodies everywhere? That ending is happy?

Fucking sinister is what it is!

I thought the same. Colter is surely going to be completely out of his depth once he attempts to return to 'his' teaching job, or when his family and friends realise he has no clue who they are...

I wonder if it wouldn't have been a superior - if not as happy - ending if it had avoided the time travel implications and ended it on his actual death (although it was soon obvious that the re-living the man's last 8 minutes premise was ridiculous - surely it would have consisted either of Colter just witnessing the same replay over and over with no changes, or, if he attempted to make any detours, that these would be representative only of Colter's interpretation of what might have been possible, and not of reality, as Sean the teacher would not have had memories of anything other than what had actually happened. Therefore it pretty much had to be time-travel in some form). Then again, like most time travel stories, the premise stands up to little scrutiny anyway, so maybe the happy ending is the better option after all.

I spotted the culprit straight away, but then spent most of the movie doubting it would be so obvious and that it must've been a red herring. I'd half convinced myself that the body into which Colter had materialised might be the bomber for a while!

Whatever the case, I enjyed the film a great deal.

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What I found funny at the end is that everybody ends up happy except for Shaun (the guy being inhabited) who is, in fact, the only guy in the whole film to actually die- in every reality- and noone mourns or even knows he's dead.

But yes, a fun film, thoughtful but still refreshingly understated. I would've preferred it without the last ten minutes where it got a bit saccharine, and the actual plot ended up being solved very quickly. (in eight minutes, in fact) Still certainly enjoyable!

EDIT: And how did anybody guess the culprit? I had no clue, and really thought it was Shaun himself for most of the film since that would've made a very good twist!

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yes, I thought the actual bomber and the inhabited body of the teacher were the two suspects telegraphed by the film (the latter was suggested by the dialog where the woman mentions he was one of the people who left the bathroom before the 8 mins started.)

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Maybe a lot of people are too genre savvy nowadays. People I saw it with clocked onto who the bomber was straight away.

Paul Schrader wrote about narrative exhaustion, that we've seen so much plot it's increasingly hard for a writer to get out in front of our expectations. One of the things I noticed about watching old whodunits was how bleedin' obvious they all were.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/jun/19/paul-schrader-reality-tv-big-brother

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Facile summary: better than Inception, not as good as Moon :)

How is it better than Inception? I felt Inception was miles ahead in most departments and was one of the most engaging films in a while. Source Code felt like you were just kinda along for the ride. Still a good movie but it's core ideas weren't as strong.

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Definitely on team inception for this one - while SC isn't bad, it lacks style, feels very boil-in-the-bag compared to inception or moon. Twists are obvious and well signposted, the science is too far into the silly realm; it feels like a generic mainstream scifi/action movie. Also the soundtrack is seriously meh; not a patch on the Mansell score for Moon (or Zimmer's for Inception).

I also think that he really needs to show something a little more stylistically original - Moon was loaded with very obvious influences and so is this, but in Moon it's forgivable because it's a debut feature, this time it's harder to bear.

Still, I did enjoy it - I'd really love to see a game rip off the concept and really run with it...

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I saw this over the weekend and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I was worried that Duncan Jones might struggle with '2nd album syndrome' as I loved Moon so much, but for me it was just as enjoyable as his debut.

I loved the whole multi-verse theory underpinning pretty much the whole film. Was the source code just a computer program that allowed someone to relive the last 8 minutes of someone elses life as the professor claimed? Or was it actually more than that, a way into other worlds, a channel across multiple universes. It was pretty much confirmed by the end of the movie but I thought the concept was great fun and the different characters attitudes to the technology were great, if perhaps a little too obvious.

The film as a whole also appeared incredibly gamey to me. With the constant reloads of the 'train level' after messing it up, trying to get a perfect run, which was brilliant to watch when finally achieved. Perhaps it's because I'm replaying the Hitman series (The game, not the film) but the film echoed a lot of aspects found in that game, the repeating of levels, learning new things and trying new approaches each time. I thought it was fantastic.

The cinematography had it's moments too I thought. I loved those overhead shots of Chicago, instantly made me want to go there for some reason. I also loved that freeze frame of the train as time ran out that final time, thought it was an obvious moment for the film to end and although I agree that the movie passed that point felt perhaps a little forced, it did bring some more additions to the whole multi-verse theory which I liked.

Overall I really really enjoyed it, and am just waiting for Duncan Jones to slip up (please don't).

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I loved the shot I'm calling "the GTA roll".

Duncan Jones loved the way in GTA you could jump out of a car while it's moving and the camera would follow your character along as he rolls up the street bouncing off the tarmac, so he stuck it in when Chesty Jake jumps out the train.

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Saw this at the weekend and really enjoyed it. So much so I stopped lurking to say as much.

Shame Lordcookie covered pretty much every thought I had about the film. :)

Jeffrey Wright's performance was the only really duff bit of the film for me. Does give you a glimpse of what the '90's/mundane director's version of it would have been like.

There's a really good interview with Duncan Jones on Collider. Covers how he came to take the job and the some of the ending points raised above. And also the GTA roll and games as art.

http://collider.com/duncan-jones-interview-source-code-3/83616/

I like not knowing what I feel about the ending. Fentress would have died anyway, but their relationship is going to be based on Colter pretending to be someone else.

Also, presumably in a branching multi-verse they'll be branches where Goodwin doesn't turn off the life support on the left over Colter (for whatever reason). He'll have to wait for terrorist attack no.2 for the plug to be pulled. If he's successful he'll end up stealing another poor blokes life.

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Also, presumably in a branching multi-verse they'll be branches where Goodwin doesn't turn off the life support on the left over Colter (for whatever reason). He'll have to wait for terrorist attack no.2 for the plug to be pulled. If he's successful he'll end up stealing another poor blokes life.

So as long as source code exists, you'd get terrorist attacks against the US mysteriously foiled at the last minute, but every time it happens, one more person ends up possessed by a version of Colter? :huh:

Liked it overall; not as actiony as i'd expected though, and the ending was a little sappy while ignoring that our hero had just stolen another mans life. Also, the main scientest guy was so over-the-top "evil authority figure" that I was convinced that beleagured castle was some figment of Colter's imagination.

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