Once again, the movie critics baffle me with their collective rating system. According to RottenTomatoes, Source Code scores as the highest rated movie of 2011 with a ‘fresh’ rating in the low 90%. I was excited to see this movie for two distinct reasons; I am a fan of Director Duncan Jones of MOON (2009) and I am a sucker for sci-fi/time travel stories. Unfortunately, I think Source Code failed on both.
Source Code refers to a piece of techno-babble that allows for a person to be transported into another human being within the last 8 minutes of their life. In this case, Jake G is sent back to a few hours earlier to try to discover a bomber on a passenger train. On board, the bomber is not only blowing up the train but also has plans to detonate a nuclear device in downtown Chicago. He has exactly 8 minutes to gather as much information, then is transported back to his own current reality to attempt another try. Simply put, Source Code Ground Hog’s Day combined with 12 Monkeys, with a dash of Quantum Leap.
Years ago, I was really amazed with what Director Duncan Jones created with his small film Moon. With just a few million dollars, Jones was able to create a retro charming story with complex characters with a tight story line. Source Code goes in the opposite direction. Visually its quite boring, the characters are two dimensional, and the story is too fragmented. Honestly, I would not have believed this was made by the same director of Moo,n it was that unrecognizable. This had none of the same charm and sensitivity of Jones’ previous work and overall I found it somewhat generic.
As a sci-fi genre film, this is alright. It hits all the right cues and follows the traditional path that you would expect. Besides the ones I already mentioned, Source Code runs the risk of being lumped into a ton of other time travel movies because it doesn’t push the boundaries of the source code tech. I found the story had fairly low stakes. For instance, Jake G is primarily motivated to save the life of a woman who he hardly knows and the audience is barely forced to wrestle with any of the ethical dilemma that are hinted at. Jake does an acceptable performance but I thought it was pretty forgettable. The rest of the cast like Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga do almost nothing but look confused or stressed. It was very vanilla performances- not bad but certainly not memorable.
I am concerned that so many critics gave this such a strong positive review. Sure Sucker Punch was a far inferior movie, but at least Zac Snyder was trying to do something original. He failed at the end but at least he was experimenting. To me, Source Code is applauding mediocre movie making and encouraging Hollywood to just play it safe. Even Inception was given only a 86% on RT and that movie buries Source Code by at least a couple of dozen % points. While Source Code is a fine movie, it’s critical success will be one of the many baffling questions plaguing me from this day forward.
If you want a better global destruction, time travel story see 12 Monkeys. If you want to see a better humorous time travel story see Ground Hog’s Day. If you want to see a mediocre version of both, see Source Code. By the way, I would give this about a 70% on RottenTomatoes.
I give it a 2.5 Babbles out of 5.