Source Code: Where’s My Decoder Ring?

Source Code had been out so long that it was in second-run theaters by the time I finally saw it.  At first I avoided it because it gave me deja vu of the lousy film Deja Vu.  Then, only belatedly did I find out it was directed by Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son, a director with a little bit of Ziggy Stardust in him too.  Duncan Jones was also the director behind Moon, one of the most thought provoking sci-fi films of the 21st century.  Source Code is a great movie to see in a second-run theater.  If you don’t get it (I’m sure a lot of people leave the theater feeling confused and angry) you’ll have only lost a few bucks.  If you do get it, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Source Code exists in two timelines; one that goes back over and over again like a skipping needle, and another that slowly advances forward.  It’s a mindboggler that probably wouldn’t have found as much financing had Inception not been such a success.  Like Inception, it’s a movie you want to go into without knowing too much.  So I’ll give you a skeletal version of the premise.  A man wakes up in a room full of machinery and is told he has to go back in time to locate a saboteur aboard a train.  He will keep being thrown back until he figures it out.  Each time, he’s allotted eight minutes to try and solve the mystery.  It’s almost like a video game you keep losing at the same level over and over.

Although much of the movie involves a variation of the same scene repeatedly, you won’t succumb entirely to ennui.  Sometimes I wished the time traveller (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) would just figure out what I figured out several trips into the past before.  There’s enough twists and turns though to hold your interest, even when you watch him make obvious wrong turns.

What I found most refreshing about Source Code was its use of models.  In the film Moon, Jones used several models to simulate the surface of the Moon and the space station on it.  Here, he takes it to an extreme and shows an incredibly elaborate model train going through a futuristic big city.  I’m sure much of it was CGI, but I was glad to see it wasn’t all CGI.  Thematically, this makes the movie linked to Moon, because, if you remember, Sam Rockwell’s character spends much of his time constructing a model town.  Models were so prominent in the early days of film, like the retro-futurist city of Metropolis, or the towns shown in many of Hitchcock’s chase sequences back when he was working in London.

The last thing I have to say is that this can be called the best story Philip K. Dick never wrote.  Unlike so many SF films, this one isn’t directly based on P. K. Dick’s fiction, but it’s informed by it.  Moon also had many elements of P. K. Dick, such as paranoia, questions of identity, and shows a science-based culture that disregards sentient life.

P.S.  It’s a lot better than Deja Vu.

Check out my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories Corey Pung

If you watched Souce Code, what did you think?



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