Virgin Review – Source Code

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…

Source Code (2011) is based off yet another story by Philip K. Dick, always an excellent go-to for exciting mind-bending films about space, time, and supra-realities. Look at past movies mining P.K. Dick: Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, and Paycheck. I  know I’m missing others, but the point is he’s a reliable “source” (ha!) for trippy film themes.

This movie also has filmatic roots harkening to the nature of reality, a la The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Existenz, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, and especially Inception. Are you in the real world, or a simulation? Does it even matter?

There’s a few surprises in this one, and I won’t spoil them here. I will admit the ending has you questioning what really happened, and if multiple timelines 1. exist and 2. interact. That’s all you need to keep in mind when you watch this.

Jake Gyllnehall does a nice enough job in the lead role. In fact, he’s pretty much the ONLY “real” role in Source Code, as the entire  affair rests on his shoulders.  Other characters have supporting and walk-on parts, as befits a film about one man trying to understand his existence. He’s sucked into being a hero and fed clues very slowly. Essentially, WE are the character of Colter Stevens, tossed about by shadowy figures with an agenda. This agenda includes both saving the world, and possibly ending it. I’ll say no more.

As befits an existential, non-futuristic movie, the style is spare and straightforward.  The real meat lies in what’s beyond the things we view over the course of 8 minute periods. The director’s hand is only seen in quickly flashing “reboots” between the character’s deaths and rebirths. Pay attention to the iconic sculpture of The Bean in Chicago, and its fun-house mirror symbolism.

Another interesting thing: Source Code is a  “Groundhog Day” film: those same 8 minutes repeat infinitely until the mission is resolved.

Altogether,  Source Code kept my attention from the very start, and had me guessing ’til the end. Actually, I’m still guessing — the ending owes a big debt to Inception. Teachers could use this film for courses about philosophy and the nature of reality: What are we? Do our thoughts create our existence? Do multiple timelines exist?  And the big one — can we change the past by traveling through time?

If you like those kind of puzzles, Source Code is well worth watching. There’s a tiny bit of humor sprinkled here and there, and Gyllnehall does confusion, irritation, and determination quite well. There’s no razzle dazzle in this flick, but it still has substance.  Recommended.

Movie Grade: B

(PS: My mother insists I say she thought Source Code deserves an A. I’m a harsher critic.)


Related, on RunPee.com:

Movie review – Source Code

18 Groundhog Day Type Movies – the ultimate list

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Movie Review – Ghost in the Shell

Grade: A-

This is a really, really pretty movie. It’s also a seamless use of CGI, and I’m normally really hard on films that rely extensively on computer animation. It totally works in this one.

Ghost in the Shell is an origin story for a comic book character called Major, and apparently this isn’t a case of ‘Asian whitewashing’ if you are an established fan. Johannson does a good job carrying the film, giving us a stoic, understated hero, struggling to understand whether she has any humanity left. Don’t expect a lot of humor – the main lighthearted moments are reserved for her friend and coworker Bantou, who really is the best part of the film. I smiled whenever he entered a scene.

Everyone else is deadly serious. I’m not a huge fan of deadly serious stories, but understand how the themes in GitS are relatively mature – presenting the nature of man, and the ethics of cybernetic enhancements. Where exactly do we draw the line in upgrading one’s given body, in pursuit of perfect health, upgraded skills…or frivolity (for example, getting an implant that lets you drink too much, so you don’t get hung over)? If you like the works of Philip K Dick, you’ll relate to this story. I do wish it had been a bit lighter in tone, however.

It’s a relatively short origin superhero tale (at one hour and 47 minutes), with an efficient pace. The action is exciting, reliable, and easy to follow. There’s a tremendous amount of dialog though, making it tough to find Peetimes. If I had to relate this movie to others, I’d say it has elements of Blade Runner, Minority Report, and a bit of The Matrix. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t achieve any of the bars set by those films, but is a respectable offering for what I expect to be a new franchise. I wasn’t disappointed, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)