Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Source Code

It's been a while since I made a movie review! My take on Megamind was written more than 5 months ago, so I guess it's about time for another one. Also, it's been 2 months since I last saw a movie in a cinema, so I'm definitely in the mood to compose a film critique. Hahaha!

Source Code is about Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is subjected to this military technology called the Source Code to fulfill a mission: know who was behind the train bombing in order to thwart the culprit's next terrorist attack. To do this, he's taken back to the last 8 minutes of the life of passenger Sean Fentress and he is made to relive those moments again and again until he exposes the bomber's identity and plan.

Neat story, right? I know it sounds kinda familiar, as it may have borrowed ideas from other movies, but after watching it, I realized that the concept has never been interpreted that way before. But I guess that also serves as the film's flaw -- or, to be more exact, burden. Since the premise is unique, the movie is obliged to explain the mechanics of the technology, or at least give enough details for the audience to figure it out, in its 93-minute runtime. That is where the film fell flat.

But let's not cut to the chase yet. I liked the movie, anyway, so I'm gonna lay out the merits of the film first before I explain the negative verdict. Orayt? Game.


  • Impressive storytelling. Sci-fi thrillers that were made to mess with our minds don't usually possess this trait. Source Code's plot points didn't have to be presented in a confusing pattern to make the movie look clever. Bit by bit, the mystery was unraveled to the protagonist as it was done to us, so as Colter Stevens got it, we did too. So kudos to director Duncan Jones.
    • Amazing cast
      • Jake Gyllenhaal was exceptional in showing how his character adapted to each 8-minute scenario, which hugely contributed to the smooth progress of the story. If an action star were made to do his role, say Gerard Butler or Sam Worthington, Colter Stevens would have felt like a character cut out from cardboard.
      • Michelle Monaghan's portrayal was good enough to make us empathize with Jake and his motivations for wanting to save her life. This was pivotal because the romance subplot in sci-fi thrillers usually feels artificial, but in this case it wasn't.
      • The two had an undeniable chemistry. I didn't feel alienated upon seeing the two in one scene, knowing that Sean Fentress was supposed to be there and not Colter Stevens. Instead, I quickly accepted that Colter was supposed to be there.
      • Vera Farmiga's performance was also commendable because she was able to stretch out an underwritten role and stuff it with depth. With her acting, she gave dimensions to a character that had a tendency to be flat. The gestures of her face were enough to let us know the struggles that she went through in her head.

      • Jeffrey Wright. There was something wrong with the way he delivered his lines, especially when he explained the mechanics of the Source Code. His portrayal was so stereotypical and off-putting that instead of deciphering what he was saying, my mind just focused on how it was offensive to real scientists. And unlike Vera Farmiga, he didn't give soul to such character with limited lines, in spite of his spot-on acting.
      • Obvious special effects. You know those scenes in cartoon shows like X-Men where the background evidently looks like it's gonna be animated? Source Code had a couple of scenes like that. It's quite disappointing because with the technology American filmmakers have now, there should be no excuse to such mistake.
      • Opening film score. What was with the fright-inducing score that was used on a showcase of Chicago's beautiful scenery? I know it was supposed to give hints of looming peril in the city, but it was just too much. It felt like the climax of The Dark Knight.
      • Russell Peters' character. I knew him even before the movie, and I think he's a gifted comedian. But the role that he served was utterly contrived. I mean, the best excuse that they came up with to make the train's passengers laugh was to put a real comedian on board? What the F.
      • Ending. I was already satisfied with my understanding of the film's concept when the ending ruined it all. As Colter Stevens found out the true capabilities of the Source Code, I got thrown off-board. The last-minute discovery made things more complicated, and the explanation felt rushed. It was like they came up with this twist and they didn't know how to give details anymore without overstretching the film. It might have worked if it were just a matter of a few choices, like the ending of Inception. But nooooo -- it left a trail of unsettled questions and revealed a different thread to the storyline.

      That's why I think the movie failed to explain the concept in full. Maybe it was their intention, that they really wanted to pass the burden to us because that's the way twists work, but the execution was not the kind that would give you chills after you've figured things out. Rather, it would make you feel exhausted because of the extra thinking you had to do. I'm sure that had left many viewers baffled and disappointed.

      But do I recommend this film? Yes. By all means, watch it! Despite the many flaws, it still is a very entertaining movie that will make you realize that playing on the truths of reality can still be twisted in movies in many other ways. I just hope that those new concepts will still be in the hands of Duncan Jones. Stories like that need a good storyteller.

      Rating: 4/5 stars


      1. Hello kPg, I like what you wrote :-)

        If you haven't checked out Duncan Jones' Moon, you HAVE to!

      2. Yep, an awesome movie overall. But that ending is scary--I've heard that we're supposed to understand that Colter just takes over Sean's life in that particular thread of reality where he survives, and that's kind of unsettling.

        But if I don't break my brain thinking about the broken connections, I finish the movie as a happy viewer.

      3. @Stefan S: Thanks! Yes, I'm on it right now! I can't wait to see it.

        @Tiger Holland: Yeah, you just don't know where Colter's morals stand, if it's on the good side or the bad. If you really want to be a satisfied person after watching the movie, I guess you should just NOT overthink things. Hahaha! Thanks for the comment. =)

      4. A fair assessment: a good film, but a flawed film. Enjoyed the read. Good writing and good luck. :-)

      5. Nice review dude. I especially agree with your Vera Farmiga observation. She is naturally a great actress who can add A LOT to any role. And she took a bit part that could have easily been written off, and turned it into someone you actually cared about.

      6. @William Quincy Belle: Yes, it's a film with flaws, but I'm sure you enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks for the compliment! =)

        @kYrus: Thank you! I'm a big fan of Vera Farmiga. She took my breath away in Up In The Air. Did you like her performance in that film, too?

      7. Overall, it is still an excellent movie to begin with.

        Ah, Russell Peters, I left him because well, that's not the reason I watched him. By the way, thanks for the visit to Green Tea Movie..

      8. @BernardGT: Hah! Russell Peters. At least he was able to inspire "life" at the passengers who were about/supposed to die. LOL. You're welcome! =)

      9. Good review with great detail without giving away the store.

        Ten minutes into the movie I wasn't that impressed, but quite honestly, after that point, I really started getting into the plot and ended up enjoying myself a LOT.

      10. Well said. I enjoyed your review very much and appreciate your well though out insights. I enjoy your blog!

      11. I am not a fan of sci-fi movies, but I really enjoyed Source Code. Though I thought the ending was a little overkill? I don't know. For some reason, the movie having two climax points, at least for me, one for the saving the world and another for trying to change the end, it more or less felt flat to me, but yeah, it was a good movie.

        I miss you and your blog! :3

      12. we love the layout of your review, very well thought out, rather impressive. we are following your blog. follow us back.


      13. @LL: Gee, thanks! It IS a movie that you don't get to enjoy right away. You have to let the concept slowly seep in to your thoughts first before you enjoy the movie. =)

        @Jason Furie: Thanks a bunch! That means a lot because I poured out a lot of my mental energy into making this review. Hehehe.

        @tintearjerky: Hi, Tin! Spot-on! Overkill was the word I was looking for. It's kinda weird, right? We don't like the ending that much, but we end up saying that we liked the movie anyway. We even recommend it to others. Haha! IMY too! *huuug*

        @Slides&Smalls: I appreciate it! Sure thing. You have A LOT of reviews there, huh? :)

      14. I cant agree more that the ending is a lil bit off... it was explain at the beginning that even if he changed anything in source code... he still cant change what had happened and they can only find the bomber and change the future.

        I personally think what happened at the end is only happened in Colter's mind... what we see is the ending that he wanted it to be.

        Nice review btw =)

      15. Hey KpG.

        Good post. I read that you're reviving your blog. That's good. But may I make a suggestion. (Since I am a online journalism professor.) If you find it difficult to write such a lengthy post, try writing shorter and just hit the main points you want to make. I wouldn't have time to write such an in depth blog. But great going. You have followers, so you're doing it right.

      16. Good review, I agree with you on most of your points, positive and negative, though I did quite like the film's score personally, I do agree it seemed a touch out of place against the backdrop it was being played over. Still, that was more a problem with the editing, and not an issue with the score which I thought was quite good.

      17. @Daniel Chiam: I've read in IMDb that the Source Code doesn't just take people to the past but it creates parallel universes. I guess that's another big thing to think about. Thanks for dropping by!

        @The Movie Slut: Wow, thanks for the advice! It's a big deal since it came from someone who knows what she's talking about. Sometimes, it's just hard to condense my posts because I have a lot on my mind. That's why I take so much time with the editing. Anyway, I'm gonna try my hardest to make it more short next time. Thank you thank you!

        @Zul: I just wish they toned it down a bit, like the superb score they used on The Social Network's opening credits/scene. Thanks for visiting!

      18. Great review - it's well detailed, written and I enjoyed reading it!!

      19. @Makootz: Thank you so much!

      20. I think you made an interesting point about Jake G, instead of an action hero. I'm not a huge fan of his, but it's true that in this case, his averageness adds depth to the characterization.

      21. @Monique: I'm not a big fan either, but his presence there somehow worked. It was hard not to empathize with him because of his eyes. Hahaha. =)

      22. Hi there, Thx for ur comment on my blog~

        It’s interesting to see other ppl’s review on the same movie~ I think ur review was definitely more detail than mine ~ I tend to not go into too detail though cuz I feel like reader might not understand unless they already have watched it & I don’t want to give away anything for ppl who haven’t watch it yet

        ~ Regardless, it’s a good review & I actually didn’t know Russel Peter until after I saw the movie & I didn’t realized it until I read it now in ur review. haha.

        I do think the ending is flawed... as for other flaws, I actually didn’t think about why he wants to save the girl over others... unless he falled in love with her for no reason like many other movie does <-- maybe that’s y i didn’t think too much into it, it seems ‘make sense’ in a movie.. lol

        so yeah, anyway following <3 please follow me back ^^

        xoxo HitomiNeko xoxo

      23. @HitomiNeko: Well, it felt like I had to let it all out, so I did. Hahaha. Thanks for dropping by! You're followed. =)

      24. Thanks for the comment on my blog kPg. I really appreciated it.

        I don't know if you listen to podcasts, but check out the Slashfilmcast on "Source Code." you might enjoy it. Here's a link, if you haven't.

      25. @Marlon Wallace: Yes, I do! Sure, I'll check it out. Thanks for dropping by! :)


      Any comment will do. Even spam. Seriously. Loljk

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