“Source Code” is a lot of fun, and it’s not just a one-note popcorn pleasure. Director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley have built a smart satisfying science-fiction/Hitchcock movie that uses a very clever conceit to tell a very simply and lovely human story. It’s just plain enjoyable, and I strongly encourage you to check it out this weekend.
Jake Gyllenhaal is very good in the lead role as the guy who finds himself being sent back into the same eight minutes, over and over, but what gives the film its heart and soul is the tension between him and the two very different women in his life. Christina (Michelle Monaghan) and Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) each exist in different moments, different times, and they deal with Colter (Gyllenhaal) in very different ways. Christina is the girl caught in the moment on the train, the repeated eight minutes before the explosion, while Goodwin is the one speaking directly to Colter in the lab setting known as the Source Code.
There are different demands made of each of the actors, and sitting down to talk to them during the SXSW festival in Austin, we talked about those challenges. Monaghan sort of surprised me in person. She always plays such girl-next-door sort of down-to-earth types in her films, and even though it was 9:00 in the morning, she showed up looking like a rock star. And then on top of it, she’s charming and cracking jokes and in a great mood? It’s enough to make you sick.
Farmiga’s challenge is an interesting technical one, but what makes it impassive is the emotional weight she brings to it. I’ve got to imagine that Ben Ripley looks at this finished film and feels like a lottery winner, because everyone in the movie brings real heft and thought to what they’re doing. Farmiga plays about 90% of her scenes with either Jeffrey Wright or Gyllenhaal, and it’s like stage work. It’s all close-up and subtle and emotional without being explicit. It’s just dialogue, simple human fireworks, and both of those actors give her so much to work with, real partners.
We’re about to hit the summer months, and there will be big effects and giant action set pieces and noise a-plenty, but what would make the summer truly special would be if those films were as well-built in the fundamentals of script and direction and performance as this one is. It was a real pleasure to talk to these actors as well as Gyllenhaal and Jones together, and I hope people take a shot on the movie.
“Source Code” opens everywhere this Friday.