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April 2nd, 2011

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04:52 pm - Source Code
The trailer for the new SF film Source Code made it look awful. Then Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian gave it five stars, yesterday which is pretty far out, so I went to see it.

In reality it is a reasonably good film. I just had a quiet couple of hours at home today and I watched Galaxy Quest on BBC1. Now that's a five star SF film. I was crying real tears like almost non-stop. Peter Bradshaw is an excellent film critic, and I think he wants to appreciate genre cinema, but he doesn't really have the gut feel for it. But, you know, it's not the fault of this film that he slightly over-sold it. It's still pretty good.

Source Code is basically Quantum Leap, but our chrononaut goes back into the same body over and over again, reliving the same eight minutes, trying to put right what once went wrong. This is in the trailer so I think it's OK to say it.

It's pretty well done. It's got the obligatory dumbo Hollywood 'estranged father and son' stuff. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who is OK, and Vera Farmiga who was the psychiatrist in The Departed, and I really appreciate the chance to see more of her.

I think there was an extra plot twist which has been excised, by which the people who are sending him back to relive eight minutes are themselves trapped within a recycling eight minutes, sent back from a further future that we never see. Without this extra twist the plot as it is doesn't make any sense, because they have knowledge they couldn't have.

I dunno, films never seem to be able to portray nested contingent realities right - I mean Sucker Punch sounds unredeemable shite, Matrix blew it, Inception pissed me off. OK, perhaps it's me. Anyway, within this context, this film is pretty good, and I enjoyed it.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 2nd, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review - I'd like to see Source Code, now I definitely will.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
It's by he guy who made 'Moon' if you saw that.
[User Picture]
Date:April 2nd, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
I adore Galaxy Quest. It gets good fanfiction at Yuletide which is often a sign of a successful genre film. I didn't mind Inception, except in parts, but I couldn't see what people were raving about. The plot was pretty obvious (though maybe I missed something), the characters so paper thin that I couldn't remember their names in the car on the way home & the conceit played havoc with the pacing. But I did like the Escher Paris. What did you think of Vanilla Sky (watched as part of my Cruisathon, otherwise I'd have given it a miss), btw?
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2011 05:12 am (UTC)
It surprises me that people have taken to the characters in Inception so much, because like you I found them hard to remember, whereas in Galaxy Quest each one was so vivid and adorable. I love Tony Shalhoub's character more each time.

Vanilla Sky - yes, that's a good additional example. I found it a bit hard to care. I liked him standing on a roof shouting 'Tech Support!' at the sky.
Date:April 2nd, 2011 07:35 pm (UTC)
It's funny that you mention Quantum Leap, because according to IMDb the main character's father is voiced by Scott Bakula.

I'm also just back from seeing the film and I mostly agree with you. This isn't great cinema or great SF, but it's nice to see a science fiction film that's more intelligent than just the regular stuff blowing up, and whose world is more rigorously thought through than what you get in even the highly praised SF films like Inception. I really liked, for example, the revelation that the characters running the experiment couldn't see or hear Gyllenhaal the way we did, because his body is a figment of his imagination. It helped to explain somewhat their coldness and utilitarian attitude towards him (though I thought Jeffrey Wright's character was over the top evil in a way he didn't need to be - after all, his motives could easily have been made to look honorable - and particularly disliked the way his disability was folded into his myriad offputting tics).

Not sure I get what you mean about the characters running the source code knowing things they shouldn't have, but I do think the film doesn't think through the implications of its final revelation. If the source code actually creates an alternate universe, then it should have done so every time the eight minutes were repeated, and in all but the last of those universes both the train and the second bomb exploded.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2011 05:04 am (UTC)
Someone in the Guardian reckoned that having Scott Bakula do the father voice was a homage, which it probably is, but I didn't recognise him at the time.

I agree about the disability, and it was on my mind at the time.


What I meant about 'knowing things they shouldn't' is that they were on a count-down to a nuclear device being detonated. How could they possible know that, or what the deadline is? The bomber was basically the Unabomber: no associates, no rational plan. They could only know that a nuke was about to go if they were in a back-loop from it happening.

The issue of Universes being generated is a problem. There was a similar problem in Quantum Leap (and Groundhog Day) - who or what decides that the problem is now solved and time can stop looping? In both of those previous the suggestion is that it's almost a theological problem - in QL perhaps heaven, in GD karma.

In this case the answer should be, when the universe has changed enough that the people running the machine no longer perceive there is a problem to solve, they stop re-running the time loop. As you say, he either makes a new universe and jumps into it, or overwrites the current universe: in either case there should be changes, every time he comes back, and only he is aware of them. So he comes to realise he can save the passengers in real life, and they don't believe him, because from their point of view 'she always got off the train that hasn't changed' (and so on for every change he makes).

So, there's nearly a completely internally consistent story here, which all hangs together. He should be trying to persuade Vera Farmiga to run the loop one more time, even though she has the info to stop the bomber, because only he knows he is over-writing reality. That would be like the plot of 'The Lathe of Heaven' actually.

Oh, another issue is that if the device destroys the evidence of its own success every time, then eventually the project will get cancelled, and then you have cascading paradoxes. But that's perhaps me worrying away too much.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
I saw it this afternoon. I thought it was very good, but, as you say, not in Galaxy Quest's league, not something I would want to rewatch and squee over.

The person I saw it with was all exercised about Jeffrey Wright's character's crutch and how it was unfair to use that as a marker of the evil his character was portraying. But IMHO he could simply have had a twisted ankle; who cares? Once he starts his day by experimenting on and eventually torturing a helpless patient who had as many disabilities as was possible to have, there are bigger issues with which to be concerned.

My irritation about the Christina character's eye candy function was dissolved in the way she said 'No.' in the painfully honest part. :D And I liked the Goodwin character - she's the lynchpin of the whole thing.

I thought it would have been a stronger film if it had ended when the Jake Gyllenhaal character and Christina were standing in front of that sculpture.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
In front of the sculpture they could have been in heaven, and the doc had switched his life support off, so it would have made some kind of sense that way.

I often get the impression that films may have originally made good sense and then they get mucked about by studio execs - but that might just be because I want to believe in a better version which could have existed.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, you are a cinematic optimist! :)

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