ncf time after time: duncan jones’ source code


A man wakes up on a train. Opposite him sits a woman. She speaks to him with familiarity, but he does not know her and insists that he’s not who she says he is.

Then they blow up.

A man wakes up in a harness in a chamber opposite the image of a woman on a screen, who addresses him with familiarity. He asks: where am I?  The woman spits a nonsensical program name at him.

The woman asks: did you find the bomb? Did you find the bomber?

The man says: where am I? The man says: oh, that train was a simulation! But where am I? I should be in Afghanistan, I was in Afghanistan.

The woman says: find the bomb, find the bomber, then the man wakes up on a train.   He tells the woman who thinks he’s not him: you’re the distraction, there’s always a distraction. He finds the bomb, he does not find the bomber.

Then he blows up.

The woman on the screen sends him back to the train. She will continue to do this, for eight-minute increments. He will, for several of these increments, behave with a sort of video game sociopathy: harassing and assaulting people who prove innocent.  They’re not real, right? Later, he learns that they were real, but died some hours before he met them: he is exploring a template provided by the brainwaves of a dead man. Still later, he learns that he himself is dead, or dying.

The simulated people begin to matter.

He blows up, or dies in some other way, over and again. He begs to not be sent back, but the quicksave is always loaded, he’s always stuck back on the train to try again.

Source Code doesn’t do anything terrificly unexpected and stretches its central premise until it breaks, but there’s some good stuff buried underneath the formulaic competency:  the lead’s transition, within the simulation, from confusion to indifference to caring; some images that are almost powerful enough on their own to elevate the narrative.

The inside of a dead/dying soldier’s head rendered as video game.

I had mixed feelings about Jones’ debut picture, Moon: I liked almost every individual scene, but didn’t like how they fit together. Characters wandered off screen with one attitude and returned seconds later with another. They weren’t so much characters as plot tokens to keep things jumping, no matter how impressively animated by Sam Rockwell. Then the end, whose sudden fierce optimism felt abrupt and unearned.

Source Code feels whole, until the end. Our Lead goes through the whole stack of emotions, but in a way that doesn’t  feel forced. The film is organic, at least when people aren’t spouting vague sci-fi bullshit to prop the plot up. The end feels lame, for lack of a better word, a gotcha that undermines all that prior vague sci-fi bullshit in a way that makes the film’s previous treatment of its premise suddenly less strained, while making that premise even more far-fetched. The lame doesn’t come from it straining my suspension of belief that much further (the film hints at this conclusion many times before the fact), but from it undermining the emotional resonance of the initial conclusion with sentiment that feels cheap.

(The train passengers frozen in postures of joy was already pushing it pretty far.)

In conclusion Vera Farmiga should have been wearingquantum al


~ by ironcupshrug on 03/31/2011.

One Response to “ncf time after time: duncan jones’ source code”

  1. Your next review:

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