It appears I have developed a taste for sci-fi movies. Though I would never define my filmic tastes by a certain genre, enjoying most with equal pleasure, it has to be said that sci-fi has for a while been my least favourite. Maybe its because I didn’t really understand The Matrix, was freaked out by Minority Report and wasn’t raised by a family of trekkies. Either way I have always preferred the sci-fi hybrid far more than in its pure form; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jurassic Park, Inception and Back to the Future for example. Now whilst it can be argued that all films are a hybrid of genres of sorts, more undiluted sci-fi ventures such as Children of Men, Star Wars and District 9 don’t quite hit the spot as the adventure-come-sci-fis do. Anyway, what has invoked such a change of heart you may ask. Well this may be attributed to a certain gentleman that goes by the name of Duncan Jones a.k.a. Zowie Bowie, son of David. If you are regular visitor to this blog (now is as good a time as any to thank you for this) you may remember a particularly glowing review I gave to his debut film Moon. Well, he recently released his second film, a noticeably higher budget and higher concept film Source Code.
Now whilst Source Code could be described as a sci-fi thriller, Jones is clearly influenced by this genre in its most unsullied form, citing his love of Blade Runner and Stars Wars as inspiration for the film. Whereas Moon set the stage for an emerging talent, Source Code cemented his position as a bankable director. Sure he’s only two feature films into his career and bankable is probably not a word a creative and imaginative guy like Jones particularly cares for, but these two films have both been critical successes, whilst Source Code looks to be a commerical success too. Certainly a good track record so far.
Source Code, with its Groundhog Day meets Deja Vu set up could potentially have been a grating and repetitive and perhaps predictable film. However the narrative is expertly written and works on so many levels. There are essentially two locations, the pod where Jake Gyllenhaal resides whilst being instructed on Source Code and the train where these instructions play out as Gyllenhaal (Colter Stevens) unravels the mystery bomber. Each ‘replay’ lasts 8 minutes and during each segment a little more about both Colter’s character, past and the bombing mystery is unravelled. Whilst at times complex and confusing, both Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan who plays the girl he’s with make for charming and sympathetic characters, allowing the audience to really engage with the material. There’s sentimentality for the softies and a more realistic, poignant revelation for the cynics as well as plenty of baffling quantum physics theory for the true sci-fi following. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat and though not completely unguessable the genius unfolding of what is essentially two narratives make for a fascinating film. From the opening sequence this is a gripping film and bravado filmmaking from Jones with excellent CGI, editing and cinematography. Also look out for noteworthing support from Vera Farmiga and the song ‘I am the One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes as Monaghan’s ringtone, which also features in Moon (a lovable directorial quirk). Not only do I want to see more of Jones’ films but sci-fi’s in general, something I never thought I’d hear myself say (see myself write??? doesn’t quite have the same ring to it). Especially after being so scarred by Minority Report. Seriously, even a period drama could rectify the sight of those frozen bodies floating in the jellied pool.