Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Source Code

It’s the perfect setup: strangers on a train fall in love, only to be swallowed up by a giant fiery blast. And then the whole thing reboots, and they do it all over again. One can imagine the marketing types explaining why this is the perfect date movie, so finely balanced between the stereotypical male and female viewer (Big explosions for the boys! Icky feelings for the girls!). Plus, the scenario helpfully spares the filmmakers the challenge of portraying love as anything more complicated than the two prettiest people in the room trading flirty banter. This is a perpetual emotion machine, cranking out a generic sense of infatuation with no noticeable wear and tear. It runs on mediocrity and produces happy endings. Entropy is not a factor here. Has someone patented this thing yet? I’m not saying I like it, but it’s certainly brilliant, and it probably has more practical applications than holding together an off-season Hollywood B-movie.

Directed by Duncan Jones—another promising young talent seduced by the ineffable charms of middlebrow banality—Source Code is a love story between a phantom man (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a ghost girl (Michelle Monaghan) that is somehow devoid of all poignancy. Think La Jetee remade as Groundhog Day, minus Bill Murray. How’s that for high concept? Now to be fair, the actual idea behind the film—that Gyllenhaal’s character is reliving the eight minutes before a terrorist attack in order to discover the culprit—is a decent start, but the film doesn’t have anywhere to go. The filmmakers create this powerful plot device, and what do they do with it? Puffed-up heroics, a few earnest weepy scenes, some blown up shit. How curious can one be about a film that seems to lack interest in itself? Eight minutes out of the theatre, and it’ll already be out of your mind.

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