Posts Tagged ‘Source Code’

DVD Geek: Source Code

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

An inspired variation of the Groundhog’s Day gimmick, Source Code, from Summit Entertainment, is about an Air Force pilot placed in the body of a teacher on a commuter train and charged with finding out who planted the bomb on the train before it explodes, and replaying the same ride again and again until he solves the puzzle.  There is a romantic component to the story, naturally, and more than one life affirming, love affirming conclusion, leaving a viewer feeling both happy and satisfied, several times, after a stimulating and exciting ride.  Jake Gyllenhaal stars, with Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright.  In that the film also evokes aspects of Quantum Leap, there is a cleverly chosen cameo appearance by Scott Bakula.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback.  The opening montage of Chicago on a bright, sunny day, before the plot even gets started, is so beautifully executed it is well worth playing over several times itself.  The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has some reasonably good separation effects and a decent amount of power.  There is an alternate Spanish audio track in 5.1 Dolby, optional English and Spanish subtitles, a generalized and sporadic trivia subtitle track, 35 minutes of passable interview featurettes with the cast and crew that effectively build in detail as they advance, and a decent 7-minute overview of the scientific and technological concepts being tweaked within the story.

There is also a fairly good commentary track featuring Gyllenhaal, director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley.  They do talk a lot about the story, but in an informative manner, discussing everything from its ‘train of thought’ development to its metaphysics.  They also speak about the performances, Jones’ challenge to make the repeated sequences not feel redundant, and the excellent production designs (Gyllenhaal:  “I love searching through things, I just have to say.  There is something as an actor.”  Jones:  “There were a lot of metal edges on this set.”  Gyllenhaal:  “That’s true.”  Jones:  “I think you cut your hands up so many…”  Gyllenhaal:  “That is so true.  Duncan agreed to do the movie and it was 4 months later that we were making the movie and so the train, occasionally, due to the speed at which we made the movie, and really how the movie moves, too, it sort of mimics itself.”  Jones:  “Jake’s hands looked like sliced bacon by the end of the shoot.”  Gyllenhaal:  “I do grab onto a lot of really sharp edges that don’t look sharp but are.  I had bloody hands.”  Jones:  “We had a very busy nurse on set.”  Gyllenhaal:  “And different hand inserts, because Duncan didn’t like the bloody hands.”).

Airplane Movies

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I watched two films on the way to New Zealand.

I was shocked how much I like Paul. I was looking forward to it when it was being released, but things didn’t quite work out and then, the response was muted at best.

I really enjoyed the tone of the piece, more so than in the previous Pegg/Frost films, which I have liked, but not loved them the way some do. These two middle-aged geeks reminded me of real middle-aged geeks… self-aware, but still engaged and hopeful.

I really liked the balance of these guys against Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, who like our geek heroes, are really on the outs while they feel like they are insiders.

I liked Kristin Wiig’s Ruth Buggs, whose evolution via Paul was inevitable, but still worked pleasantly for me.

That’s really the thing… here are these guys… on this stupid trip… and they meet an alien… and they get over it in a second and just keep rolling along. It was like The Muppet Movie with an alien.

Speaking of which, it was one of my favorite Seth Rogen performances because he wasn’t encumbered by his look, which in the movies is a real thing. Using just his voice, his Paul could go from being stoner laid back to cocky to mean to arrogant to sweet as sugar and just keep going. I liked the integration of the CG character into the film and found it reasonably seamless… as though Greg Mottola was directing a guy in a suit on the set and didn’t really change much to accommodate him.

No doubt, it may have seemed more flawed on a screen 50x bigger than other one I viewed it on. But I mostly grinned through the whole thing, utterly entertained.

Flip side, maybe a theater would have helped Source Code for me.

I didn’t hate the movie. How can one hate the movie. And I racked my brain to remember why anyone would be remotely upset – or interested in – Jeffrey Wright’s mad mocha scientist or any of his movie cliche ticks.

My problem with the movie was that I never cared for a second about this guy. I figured out “the secret” within the first 2 or 3 serious looks into camera when he asked unanswered questions.

I don’t care about the logic. I don’t care about whether the cheesed up ending makes sense. Don’t care. I will give a movie its premise. I will overlook those leaps.

But I have to care about these characters. And I really didn’t. After a short while, it felt like every leap was just there to teach him 2 or 3 tricks… no real threat of anything good or bad happening as a result of his actions. I would have liked the version where he murders everyone on the train because, who cares… he’ll just be back in a little while.

If nothing can change, as the story claims, aside from an event none of these characters have anything to do with, why do we care?

This is where Unstoppable can teach filmmakers a lesson. Keep It Simple… And Stupid. If the train is heading off the raised tracks into a neighborhood, at least put one guy’s estranged wife and kid and the other guy’s two Hooter-iffic daughters within the kill range. It’s good old fashioned movie BS… but it brings you into the drama, like it or not.

The fatalistic “you can’t change anything, but do the right thing” schtick is arthouse crap. Duncan Jones is a skilled young director and should have a long, healthy career ahead of him. But if you’re making boom-boom movies, don’t confuse yourself by being too smart… unless you are so smart that you can achieve a masterpiece… and I will watch all of your films, but you aren’t there yet, Dunc.

As I say, maybe the ride would have been more fun with a room full of people instead of a sleeping Brit snoring away in the seat next to me. (I had earbuds that kept the noise – competing with the plane engines – out of my head during the film.) More likely, there was just so much crap in theaters from Jan-March that people were thrilled not to want to be running for the exits to ask for their money back. (I didn’t pay… I had nowhere to go… but I could have switched channels and chose not to… so there!)

Of course, the highlight of my trip was 5 hours of The Walking Dead. With that and Game of Thrones this year, it may be the best year ever for “fantasy” on television.

The Weekend Report — May 1

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Weekend Estimates: April 29-May 1, 2011

Title Distributor Gross (average) % chng Theaters Cume
Fast Five Uni 83.1 (22,810) NEW 3644 83.1
Rio Fox 14.5 (3,900) -45% 3707 103.7
Madea’s Big Happy Family Lionsgate 10.0 (4,370) -60% 2288 41
Water for Elephants Fox 9.2 (3,270) -45% 2820 32.4
Prom BV 4.8 (1,770) NEW 2730 4.8
Hoodwinked Too! Weinstein Co. 4.1 (1,650) NEW 2505 4.1
Soul Surfer Sony 3.3 (1,650) -39% 2010 33.8
Insidious Film District 5.3 (2,530) -21% 1584 45.62
Hop Uni 2.5 (790) -79% 3176 105.2
Source Code Summit 2.5 (1,530) -51% 1645 48.9
African Cats BV 2.3 (1,900) -61% 1224 10.6
Scream 4 Weinstein Co. 2.2 (1,000) -68% 2221 35.5
Hanna Focus 2.2 (1,410) -58% 1564 35.9
Limitless Relativity 1.1 (1,300) -59% 838 76.1
The Conspirator Roadside Attractions 1.0 (1,480) -53% 691 8.7
Arthur WB 1.0 (810) -75% 1251 31.7
The Lincoln Lawyer Lionsgate .85 (1,180) -53% 719 54.9
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night FreeStyle .74 (850) 875 0.74
Win Win Fox Searchlight .67 (2,220) -40% 302 7.6
Your Highness Uni .61 (1,520) -84% 402 21.1
Jane Eyre Focus .52 (1,770) -30% 294 8.7
The Adjustment Bureau Uni .51 (1,840) 106% 277 61.7
Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 Rocky Mountain .41 (1,110) -53% 371 3.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $150.50
% Change (Last Year) 54%
% Change (Last Week) 15%
Also debuting/expanding
Cave of Forgotten Dreams IFC .14 (27,440) 5 0.14
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold Sony Classics 95,600 (2,660) -19% 36 0.25
In a Better World Sony Classics 76,700 (1,870) 5% 41 0.4
Incendies Sony Classics 69,800 (6,980) 38% 10 0.14
Nenu Naa Rakshasi Great India 45,300 (2,660) 17 0.05
13 Assassins Magnolia 40,100 (10,020) 4 0.04
Chalo Dilli Eros 38,400 (1,370) 28 0.04
Exporting Raymond IDP 35,200 (2,710) 13 0.04
Vaanam Big Cinemas 26,600 (2,960) 9 0.03
The Robber Kino 14,100 (2,8200 5 0.01
Sympathy for Delicious Maya 8,600 (4,300) 2 0.01
Lebanon, Pa. Truly Indie 7,300 (3,650) 2 0.01
That’s What I Am IDP 6,600 (6600 10 0.01
Earthwork Shadow 3,200 (3,200) 1 0.01
The Arbor Strand 1,600 (1,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – April 21, 2011

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (9) 418.5 15.20%
Sony (11) 403.7 14.70%
Universal (9) 354.7 12.90%
Warner Bros. (16) 314.1 11.40%
Buena Vista (7) 263.5 9.60%
Fox (8) 235.4 8.60%
Weinstein co. (5) 165.9 6.10%
Relativity (4) 105.9 3.90%
Fox Searchlight (5) 87.9 3.20%
Lionsgate (80 85.3 3.10%
Focus (4) 60.7 2.20%
CBS (3) 57.2 2.10%
Summit (4) 57.1 2.10%
FilmDistrict (1) 44 1.60%
eOne/Seville (10) 15.3 0.60%
Roadside Attractions (6) 13.7 0.50%
Sony Classics (8) 13.6 0.50%
Other * (109) 47.1 1.70%
2743.6 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%

Friday Estimates: April 29

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Fast Five|33.1*|3644|NEW|33.1
Madea’s Big Happy Family|3.1|2288|-71%|34.1
Water for Elephants|2.9|2820|-58%|26.1
Hoodwinked Too!|1.1|2505|NEW|1.1
Soul Surfer|1.0|2010|-57%|31.5
African Cats|0.95|1224|-72%|9.2
Source Code|0.8|1645|-56%|47.2
Also Debuting|||||
Dylan Dog|0.25|862||
Cave of Forgotten Dreams|38,800|5||
13 Assassins|12,800|4||
Nenu Naa Rakshasi|15,600|17||
Chalo Dilli|10,200|26||
Exporting Raymond|Exporting Raymond|13||
Lebanon, Pa.|3,100|2||
The Robber|3,000|4||
Sympathy for Delicious|2,100|2||
That’s What I Am|1,800|10||

* in millions

The Weekend Report: April 10, 2011

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

The Best That You Can Do is …

Audiences continued to Hop to it as the animated Easter eggs-travaganza topped weekend tickets sales with an eggs-timated $21.6 million. The film bounded well ahead of a quarter of new national releases that saw the remake of Arthur and the distaff thriller Hanna competing for the second slot with the former squeaking ahead by about 200k with a $12.5 million tally. The inspirational Soul Surfer bowed to $10.9 million and the tongue-in-cheek swashbuckler Your Highness swiped $9.5 million.

Among the new niche releases were the non-fiction nature study Born to Be Wild with $820,000 from 206 cages (194 in 3D) and the Mexican comedy No Eres Tu, Soy Yo that grossed $530,000 at 226 venues. Bollywood entry Thank You failed to revivify that sector with a $253,000 bow from 92 engagements.

Exclusives this weekend saw a couple of glimmers of hope including the minimalist western Meek’s Cut Off with $19,800 at two screens. Solo outings for docs Blank City on Manhattan’s early Punk scene and American: The Bill Hicks Story profiling the late comic genius respectively rang up $10,600 and $6,400 in ducats.

The frame’s overall tally generated roughly $118 million and slipped 5% behind last weekend’s biz. It was a slightly more severe 7% lag from 2010 when the second weekend of Clash of the Titans led with $26.6 million; edging out the $25.2 million gross for newcomer Date Night.

Hopes weren’t particularly high for any of the quartet of newcomers with Arthur given the best prospects that ranged from $12 million to $18 million. Your Highness was also overestimated with pundits pegging its bow somewhere between $11 million to $15 million. Conversely the mavens viewed Hanna’s topmost performance at $10 million with similar expectations for Soul Surfer that proved to be accurate.

Hanna’s strength largely came from unexpected response from males that composed slightly more than half of its audience. Soul Surfer drew a resounding 80% female crowd and was the only one of the four new films that had a majority under 25 demographic with 56%. Arthur was 64% older, Your Highness was 55% dominated by plus 25s and Hanna was at the high end with 69%.

The shift so far this year to an older set of ticket buyers has largely been cited as a reflection of weak product though one can hardly imagine what aspect of such films as Sucker Punch or Drive Angry could possibly draw a mature buyer to the multiplex. The industry mantra is that younger male avids will be back in force come May when the summer tentpole fun rides are unleashed.

What appears to have stumped the pundits is what exactly are these bulwarks of movie going doing during this apparent hiatus? No one appears to have done surveys that might indicate whether a trend exists or if there’s an absence of a conclusive shift to other activities. Regardless, no one believes this segment is staying at home and exercising their fast food options. So, clearly the new VoD initiatives are directed toward them and their involvement in the movie experience remains vital to the industry’s health and welfare.

Weekend (estimates)
April 8 – 10, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (avg) % chng Theaters Cume
Hop Uni 21.6 (5,980) -42% 3616 68.1
Arthur WB 12.5 (3,810) NEW 3276 12.5
Hanna Focus 12.3 (4,850) NEW 2535 12.3
Soul Surfer Sony 10.9 (4,910) NEW 2214 10.9
Insidious Film District 9.8 (4,060) -26% 2419 27.2
Your Highness Uni 9.5 (3,420) NEW 2769 9.5
Source Code Summit 9.0 (3,040) -39% 2971 28.6
Limitless Relativity 5.6 (2,130) -40% 2642 64.3
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules! Fox 4.9 (1,690) -52% 2881 45.5
The Lincoln Lawyer Lions Gate 4.4 (1,830) -35% 2420 46.3
Rango Par 2.3 (1,140) -49% 2007 117.5
Sucker Punch WB 2.1 (1,180) -66% 1755 33.9
Paul Uni 1.7 (1,040) -59% 1667 35.1
Battle: Los Angeles Sony 1.5 (1,090) -57% 1408 81.2
Jane Eyre Focus 1.2 (4,780) -3% 247 5.2
Win Win Fox Searchlight 1.2 (5,220) 4% 226 3.5
The Adjustment Bureau Uni .88 (1,120) -59% 783 60.1
Born to Be Wild WB .82 (3,980) NEW 206 0.82
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .55 (810) -52% 675 137.6
No Eres Tu, Soy Yo Lions Gate .53 (2340) NEW 226 0.53
Red Riding Hood WB .52 (670) -71% 777 36.7
Weekend Total
($500,000+ Films)
% Change (Last Year) -7%
% Change (Last Week) -5%
Also debuting/expanding
Thank You UTV .25 (2,750) 92 0.25
Kill the Irishman Anchor Bay 91,600 (1,760) -19% 52 0.85
Miral Weinstein Co. 55,700 (1,920) -24% 29 0.25
In a Better World Sony Classics 48,600 (4,050) 47% 12 0.1
Meek’s Cut Off Osciloscope 19,800 (9,900) 2 0.02
Blank City FilmsWeLike 10,600 (10,600) 1 0.01
Meet Monica Velour Anchor Bay 7,300 (3,650) 2 0.01
Ceremony Magnolia 6,800 (2,270) 3 0.01
Henry’s Crime Moving Pictures 6,600 (3,300) 2 0.01
American: The Bill Hicks Story Variance 6,400 (6,400) 1 0.01
To Die Like a Man Strand 2,150 (2,150) 1 0.01
Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – April 7, 2011)
Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (9) 413.6 18.20%
Sony (10) 370.9 16.30%
Universal (8) 276.1 12.10%
Warner Bros. (14) 273.6 12.00%
Buena Vista (6) 255.2 11.20%
Weinstein Co. (4) 133.4 5.90%
Fox (6) 127.6 5.60%
Relativity (4) 90.5 4.00%
Fox Searchlight (4) 82.9 3.70%
CBS (3) 56.6 2.50%
Lions Gate (6) 47.5 2.10%
summit (4) 31.8 1.40%
Focus (3) 25.1 1.10%
FilmDistrict (1) 17.4 0.80%
eOne/Seville (7) 14.5 0.60%
Sony Classics (6) 12.3 0.50%
Other * (99) 44.3 2.00%
2273.3 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%
Top Domestic Grossers *
(Jan. 1 – April 7, 2011)
Title Distributor Gross
The King’s Speech * Weinstein Co. 119,361,676
Rango Par 115,230,893
Just Go With It Sony 101,651,979
True Grit * Par 100,131,192
The Green Hornet Sony 98,588,503
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 97,075,887
Battle: Los Angeles Sony 79,700,377
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 72,707,468
No Strings Attached Par 70,662,220
Black Swan * Fox Searchlight 65,964,914
Little Fockers * Uni 64,117,440
Unknown WB 62,821,544
The Adjustment Bureau Uni 59,231,700
Limitless Relativity 58,688,230
The Fighter * Par/Alliance 54,624,687
Tron: Legacy * BV 54,483,200
I Am Number 4 BV 53,949,381
The Dilemma Uni 48,800,147
Hop Uni 46,456,305
Hall Pass WB 44,034,990
* does not include 2010 box office

Weekend Estimates by Soul Klady

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

And this is why weekend-to-weekend looks so crappy. Last year on “this” weekend, there were $27m in openers. This weekend, $46m. But the weekend is still well behind last year because Sucker Punch was WB’s entry, not Clash of the Titans, and there was no DWA film (last year, it was a leggy Dragon) doing $25m in a third weekend while Hop, which is a success story (but a mild one), did $21m in Weekend Two. Those two holdovers and one $25m opener (Date Night) overpower nearly $20m in more opening firepower this year than last.

If you simply flipped last year’s WB entry for this year’s, “this year’s weekend” would be ahead of “last year’s weekend” by over $15 million. And if wishes were fishes… But you get the point, no? It’s about the movies, not the market. Until there is a much longer lasting set of data that involves a more muscular set of movies being off by similar amounts, I’m not taking any “slump” seriously. Of course, if you want to believe that somehow Clash of the Titans would have done half the business it did if it opened this year or that Sucker Punch would have done more than double what it’s doing opening last year, please, feel free to make the argument.

One genre that may be nearing its end in this cycle as an industry cash cow is the stoned comedy. Since the Superbad/Knocked Up back-to-back smashes, Team Apatow has racked up just one $100m movie (Step Brothers) in 8 attempts. And while Apatow had nothing to do with the two movies gently opening this weekend (Arthur/Your Highness), they are both bastard children of his camp. Like many niche genres in Hollywood, no reason that this one can’t go on. But costs have to be contained and then these are the kinds of legged-out doubles that studios can use to keep the balance sheet positive build library, an occasionally get a surprise big hit. But right now, they are a little expensive and aren’t delivering on the expectations that the studios have when greenlighting them. (Expectations from tracking come long after the horse is out of the barn.)

Hanna is a really nice opening for Focus. They picked up the film in most of the world (Sony has some territories), extending their relationship with Joe Wright, and this opening is better than any two weekends of Atonement domestic grosses combined. Given some strong word-of-mouth (and a soft market for good movies), it could even end up passing Atonement‘s $50m gross.

Bob Berney is back in business. Soul Surfer is a Sony release, but Film District marketed it for Sony, and the results are strong for what could well have been a much smaller feel-good film. And Insidious had a 26% hold, which is almost unheard of for any film in this front-loaded market, much less a horror film. This is one of this year’s real success stories already, likely heading to more than $50m domestic.

Source Code didn’t hold quite as well, but it does seem that we are in the first stretch of commercial movies this year that anyone is happy to recommend.

Matt Singer Spoilercasts The Dark Implications Of Source Code’s Ending

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Matt Singer Spoilercasts The Dark Implications Of Source Code‘s Ending

Kohn Gets His “Cyber-Control Scientist” Dad To Explain Source Code’s Pop Culture

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Kohn Gets His “Cyber-Control Scientist” Dad To Explain Source Code‘s Pop Culture

What’s In Jeffrey Wright’s Pipe In Source Code And Why Is Elvis Mitchell Smoking It If It Doesn’t Appear In The Film?

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

What’s In Jeffrey Wright’s Pipe In Source Code And Why Is Elvis Mitchell Smoking It If It Doesn’t Appear In The Film?

Wilmington on Movies: Source Code

Friday, April 1st, 2011

“Source Code”  (Four Stars)
U.S.: Duncan Jones, 2011

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
George Santayana

“Time is on my side.”
The Rolling Stones

1. We’re on a commuter train, racing toward Chicago. Something is wrong. It’s a nightmare.

We’re also at the start of the first eight minutes of Source Code, a spellbinding science fiction thriller — from director Duncan Jones and writer Ben Ripley — about a hellbound train and a man (Who is he? Where is he?) who keeps reliving the last eight minutes of another man‘s life in order to find a terrorist bomber and save a city from flaming death.

Now, a friendly warning: No SPOILER ALERTS here because THE WHOLE REVIEW IS A SPOILER, and so is every other review of this movie, including the ones you’ve probably already read, and the few lines I‘ve already written here.

My advice: Walk in cold. You won’t, but you should. This is the best, most exciting, smartest, most amusingly inventive, and most thoroughly entertaining science fiction movie I’ve seen since Inception. And you’ll like it better if you start the ride with very little baggage, just like the hero/protagonist, Captain Colter Stevens (played spotlessly by Jake Gyllenhaal) –a bit confused, bewildered, not knowing what’s going on, and trying falteringly to grab your bearings on something like a speeding train heading toward Chicago. But first, you’ve got to figure out who you are. Stevens (Gyllenhaal)? Or somebody named Sean Fentress (Federick De Grandpre)?




Don’t blame me if you didn‘t. Anyway, we’ll try to leave you enough surprises, the ones that count.

2. So we’re back with Captain Stevens, an Army pilot who, the last thing he knew, was flying a helicopter in Afghanistan. Now he‘s waking up after a supposed snooze on his seat on the Chicago Commuter Line, a fictionalized, somewhat idealized version of Metra Rail, and staring at him is someone who acts like a friend, but whom he doesn’t know, but who calls him “Sean“ (whom he doesn’t know either): a very sexy lady named Christina Warren (played by the very sexy Michelle Monaghan), with a curious catlike grin that’s both warmly inviting and sometimes strangely spooky.

The conductor takes his ticket (Stevens doesn’t know where it is, and Christina, who does, grabs it out of his pocket). A passing lady spills coffee on him. He goes to the bathroom to clean up and looks in the mirror and the face he sees isn’t his. It’s maybe Sean’s (De Grandpre’s), though the man looking into the mirror is still Stevens (Gyllenhaal). Stunned and a little scared, he walks back to his seat and Christina, to try to figure out what the hell is going on, and then the train explodes .

Now, there’s an opening for a movie thriller! Sucker Punch, eat your heart out. It’s science-fiction. It’s adventure. It’ mystery. It’s noir. It’s Strangers on a Train, and Unstoppable and Runaway Train. It’s The Bourne Identity. It’s The Twilight Zone. And, as critic after critic has noted, it will soon morph right into Groundhog Day. (This movie is something else as well: it’s the film descendant of a great story that beat Groundhog Day to the punch by almost forty years. I’ll tell you more about that later.)

Jones and Ripley and all their actors and technicians seem in perfect sync in that scene. And because of that, we know we’re in good hands, that we‘ll want to stay on that ride all the way to the end of the line. Again.

3.  That first scene was our first eight minutes. Now Stevens wakes up and he‘s in something that looks like a dark simulated training cockpit, or some kind of weird dark cell, and on the video is the cold, expressionless face (Christina always smiles; this woman doesn’t) of a strictly-business uniformed Army officer named Colleen Goodwin (the always-damned-good Vera Farmiga) who’s his contact. She starts to explain the seemingly inexplicable to him — while her limping, impatient, unlikably authoritarian boss, Dr. Rutledge (the always-damned-good Jeffrey Wright) occasionally looms behind her.

She tells him: There is no train, not any more. It blew up in the bomb explosion and everybody died, including both Christina and Sean.

What exactly happened to Stevens in Afghanistan she doesn’t explain. But the consciousness that was once Stevens, is now being shuttled, thanks to a top secret Army software program called “Source Code,“ into and out of a body and the consciousness — still imprinted somehow, somewhere — of the last eight minutes of Sean’s life before the explosion. How it was preserved, we don’t know. How the program, Source Code, really works, we don’t know either.

We know very little, in fact, and only what Stevens himself learns: that he’s going to be sent back to that train to do a job, and he has exactly eight minutes and no more each time he’s sent back, and that it’s always the same eight minutes for everybody else, but not for him.

Now though, he’ll remember everything that just happened, in or out of the train’s “reality,” from the time he woke up and saw Christina. He’ll also know that he’s supposed to use his time to find the bomb, and find the killer (who was on the train before it blew), so that the Army and the police can stop that same murderer/terrorist from using another, bigger bomb later that day in Chicago.

We have to take a lot of all this on faith. Yet, if we do accept it, and go with it, we’ll like what we see.

But will Stevens? Time and again, in Source Code, he keeps going back, keeps reliving those same eight minutes, seeing once again that warm, spooky smile, seeing that diverse, colorful, seemingly ordinary bunch of passengers and train workers — an angry guy who’s a standup comic (Russell Peters), a seeming businessman (Cas Anvar), a college kid (Kyle Gatehouse), the lady with the coffee cup (Paula Jean Hixson), a guy with a soda can (Albert Kwan), a seeming snob with intense eyes (Michael Arden), another businessman with a gold watch (Craig Thomas), the fatherly conductor (Gordon Masten), or maybe even Christina herself — and wondering which of them, or of all the others aboard, is the killer.

Or perhaps it’s all a ruse and a snare. Maybe Stevens will learn in the end that somebody in Source Code is lying, filling him with false memories, using him for another plot, something maybe even worse.

Whatever the explanation, something else starts happening in those repeated strands of time and those possible realities. Stevens, a smart soldier, is piecing together the puzzle, learning more and more each time. But he‘s also getting more drawn to Christina and more hooked on her warming, almost constant smile. He wants to save her. But he seemingly can’t. He wants to keep the train from exploding. But he seemingly won’t. He wants to be alive as himself again, in something more than a dark cell with a video screen and the unsmiling Goodwin. He wants to live his own life and not eight minute chunks of another man‘s tragic finale. But…

4. Some reviewers who don’t like Source Code, and even part of the vast majority who do, think that the movie just doesn’t make sense. Well, yeah. Of course it doesn’t make sense. Neither does a magic carpet, or a genie with his three wishes, or the Man With No Name gunning down a barroom gang, or Orpheus descending into hell to bring back Eurydice. You want sense, take the Metra Rail.

In our “real” life though, you obviously can’t keep going back in time and reliving eight minutes of another man‘s life, a man who may have been physically destroyed in the bomb blast. Even if you could, there are all kinds of problems of parallel worlds and about what people do in the reconfigured time (including people who first stayed on the train on the last stop before the blast, but left during other trips), and about a glitch in the bomb detonation (two trains have to pass each other), and about maybe altering the future and creating many different alternate futures, like strands of life inter-twisted — all stuff that Source Code just doesn’t go into much. Maybe the filmmakers or their publicists should have put footnotes and an appendix in the press notes, instead of that dinky little synopsis they gave us.

One of the main plot gimmicks in many time travel stories — from Ray Bradbury‘s The Sound of Thunder to Robert Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps and All You Zombies, all the way up from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine to the recent movie of Audrey Niffenegger‘s The Time Traveler‘s Wife — is the problem of paradoxes, of whether or not the things a time voyager does when he goes back into the past can ultimately alter his/her or everyone‘s future. Step on a blade of grass, kill a bug and the world changes. Maybe you’ll decimate a whole species.

But it doesn’t matter. It’s a pointless complaint because though you may someday be able to travel into the future, by something involving suspended animation or the speed of light, we’ll never, never go back into the past. Trust me.

Screenwriter Ripley gets to create his own rules because it’s his own world: his and Jones’s, and their fellow filmmakers. They set the rules, not Newton or Einstein.

5. Now I’ll tell you about the story I mentioned: the one that used the repeated time plot device a long time before Groundhog Day. It’s an old science fiction story that may even have inspired Harold Ramis. (Ramis looks to me like an ex-kid science fiction fan.) It was published almost 40 years before , in the mid-‘50s, in editor H. L. Gold’s magazine, “Galaxy Science Fiction.” It was called The Tunnel Under the World, and it was written by the famous science fiction writer and editor Frederik Pohl, who was one of Philip K. Dick‘s most sympathetic editors, one of Isaac Asimov’s oldest friends, and also co-author (with C. M. Kornbluth) of the classic novel satire of advertising The Space Merchants (a.k.a. Gravy Planet), and who, the last I heard, lives in Palatine. Il. — within reach of Chicago, by commuter train.

Pohl’s fantastic story was about a man named Guy who wakes up screaming out of a dream every morning, except one day when he falls asleep not in his bedroom, and he discovers when he wakes up the next morning that it’s the same day all over again. That night Guy deliberately hides and he discovers the next day that each new morning is always the same date, (just like Bill Murray would learn in Groundhog Day four decades later). Only a few others in the town know this, including a pretty woman who, like him, hides each night so she won’t wake up and not know it’s the same day, even though now, remembering and repeating, she feels like she’s going crazy.


The Tunnel Under the World is a terrifying story, and it’s also a pointed political satire about consumerism and conformity. I won’t tell you what else happens, because you might want to read it some day. But, years before Groundhog Day came out in 1993, I always thought Pohl’s “Tunnel” would make a great movie. Terry Gilliam (“Brazil”) could have directed it. (It’s too late now. People would say the Pohl movie was ripping off Groundhog Day.)

As far as I remember, the only things in “Tunnel” repeated in either Groundhog Day or Source Code are the idea of the repeated time replaying over and over, the day or the eight minute chunk, and the fact that each story has a pretty girl, waiting, in that niche of time. But it’s still a powerful premise, an ultimate nightmare, a classic from the heyday of science fiction geniuses like Dick, Asimov, Bradbury, Pohl, Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke, and Alfred Bester. Somebody should really mention that story, and Pohl, and “Galaxy Science Fiction,” in reviews of Source Code, and not just keep repeating the mantra “Groundhog Day” over and over — even though Ramis and Murray made something terrific out of the notion too.

Source Code, like Tunnel Under the World, is less a prediction or extrapolation than a nightmare, and it lives and dreams by the logic of nightmares. That’s why the comparisons between Source Code and The Twilight Zone — and the many, many comparisons being made to Philip K. Dick’s stories — are apt. These references summon up science fiction tales not about explorations of outer space (which, at least outside our solar system, seems not as inevitable as we once thought), but about exploring inner space: a dimension, as Rod Serling was wont to say, “not of time or of space, but of mind.“

Almost every nightmarish story Serling, or his guys Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson dreamed up for the “Zone“ can be explained very simply. (And so can some of the ones on the Zone-inspired The Outer Limits.) The main character, whom Serling usually identifies with, could be really crazy. He or she is not really traveling back or forward in time, or being pursued by menaces and phantasms, or going through the same murder trial again and again, or suddenly gaining strange powers, or being a librarian left with lots of books and no glasses, or seeing a monster out on the wing of the plane 20,000 feet up. In our terms, the only ones we usually live by, they’re all insane. Demented. Seeing things. Or having nightmares and not yet awake.

Serling though, in these “Zone” teleplays, chooses to present this craziness as something actual. He imagines what it would be like if the nightmares become real, if there were monsters, if there were strange powers, if there were time travelers. (He also used “Zone” to talk about nightmares that were only too possible, like the threats of totalitarianism, bigotry or the Bomb.)

Conversely, for the menaced and driven characters in Philip K. Dick’s stories, and all the alternative realities they keep finding or living in, insanity is only one of several explanations. For Dick, it’s the worlds they live in (and that he lived in) that were often crazy. But it’s often there, a teasing hint. — even in his scathing but compassionate look at drug addicts, based on people he knew, in the realistic, semi-autobiographical “A Scanner Darkly.”

6. That’s what happens in Source Code. We’re seeing a nightmare, laced with the logic of a nightmare, while the filmmakers keep asking us: What if it were real? You should read Rog Phillips’ story “The Yellow Pill” sometime, to find out how terrible a question that can be.

Phillips’ story, published in the magazine “If,“ which Pohl later edited and for which Dick frequently wrote, is one of the great science fiction stories, though Phillips, who died at 55, only a few years after writing it, seems almost forgotten today. (He also wrote another great heart-breaking story, called “Rat in the Skull.“) “The Yellow Pill” is about a psychiatrist treating a man, a homicidal maniac, who’s gone crazy and thinks he’s an astronaut aboard a space ship, and that the psychiatrist is one too, and that the innocent people he killed were really deadly space aliens.

The maniac, even as he raves on like this, seems strangely sure of himself, with a manner amazingly self-possessed and apparently totally rational. Since the psychiatrist can’t reason with him or crack his façade of normality, he suggests that the maniac take a “yellow pill,” a drug that destroys psychosis and dementia, and induces a true perception of reality. The man agrees, but only if the doctor will take it as well. And the doctor concurs.

At their regular meeting, they both take the yellow pill that wipes out insanity and delusions, that puts you in the real world. And it works, of course. Twice. The maniac, contrite, sees that he was wrong, that he really is just a man, albeit a murderer, living not out in space, but on earth, and he apologizes and walks to the door to open it and leave the doctor’s office. The doctor, meanwhile, who can’t stop him, has realized that he is actually an astronaut aboard a space ship and that, while he remains powerless to stop him, his friend and crewmate has just opened a space lock and is calmly stepping outside to his death.

“The Yellow Pill” was an ideal Twilight Zone-style story, and it almost certainly would have made one of their all-time classic shows, and probably a great showcase for a director like John Brahm (“Time Enough at Last“). Sadly, Serling and his guys never used it, maybe didn‘t know about it. It was adapted instead on two other much lesser-known TV shows: “Out of This World” (which starred Boris Karloff) and “Out of the Unknown.” Today, those rare programs, relics with a mention on imdb, may have vanished.

The best of these “real” nightmares — and Source Code is one of the most powerful of recent movie nightmares, far scarier and more engrossing than trendy bloodbaths and massacres such as the latest Saw or Battle: Los Angeles — are stories that sometimes have something beautiful in them as well: a poetry of solitude and alienation. That melancholy, almost Antonionian feeling is also part of Jones‘s first (and only other) feature, the science fiction thriller-drama Moon, with Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey as two astronauts (with one other) on a moon base — a situation very like “The Yellow Pill” and also like Andrei Tarkovsky‘s eerie film masterpiece based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris).


Moon has been prized by some critics above Source Code; I don’t think it’s as good. But both films are the work of a rare talent. Both Jones’ films use a popular s. f. thriller form to explore something deep and troubling in our common psyche: the riddle of identity in the case of Moon, and the seeming impossibility of avoiding destiny or death, or of saving loved ones, in Source Code.

Can you grab or grasp time, cheat death? Can you slip its embrace? And if you try and fail, will it matter? Yes, of course it will, the movie affirms, which is one of the reasons I like it.

In fact, it always matters, even if all your love is in vain, and there’s only another explosion or massacre waiting at the last tick of the clock.

7. It’s a minor point, but I don’t like the title Source Code, which remains something of a cipher even after you see the movie. But maybe you just can’t use the obvious, much better title, “Eight Minutes,” because there’s already been a lousy Al Pacino thriller called 88 Minutes and a John Avildsen rodeo picture called 8 Seconds. And there’s an 8 Women, by Francois Ozon, with Catherine Deneuve, and an Eight Men Out (John Sayles on the Chicago Black Sox scandal), an 8 Mile (Eminem, rap), an 8MM (Nic Cage, snuff porn), a Hard Eight (Paul Thomas Anderson on gambling), and 8 Million Ways to Die (an L. A. neo-noir by Hal Ashby, Oliver Stone, Bob Towne and Andy Garcia). And, of course the greatest “Eight“ film of them all: Fellini’s 8 ½ (Ciao, Federico!)

Since we’ve been talking so much about Rod Serling, let’s also remember that his ace liberal ‘50s teleplaywright compatriot, Reginald Rose, made Juror Number Eight the humanitarian hero of his classic courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men. (Henry Fonda, of course. And anyone for cards and Crazy Eights and aces and eights — the dead man‘s hand? I told you it was a minor point.)

Well, that’s about all I have to say on Source Code. (I still prefer “8 Minutes,“ by the way.) Except this: The director, the writer, the actors, the artist/technicians (cinematographer Don Burgess of Forrest Gump, production designer Barry Chusid of 2012, editor Paul Hirsch of Carrie) who worked with them on this movie are all probably as good as Ripley and Jones (David Bowie’s son, by the way) could want: each of them contributing strongly to a seamless whole.

I maybe would have preferred a different, darker ending than the one Ripley and Jones use — but maybe not.

8. Okay. We’re done. We stop at the end of the next paragraph. But think it over — not just about whether you want to see the movie, or if it’ll make money, or if you want to curse me out for writing such long, repetitive, self-indulgent reviews, but about whether Freud was right or Rod Serling was right — about nightmares, about what they mean, and about how real they can be.

You’ve got eight minutes.

Box Office Hell — April 1

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Our Players|Coming Soon|Box Office Prophets|Box Office Guru|EW|Box Office . com
Source Code |15.5|n/a|16.0|15.0|14.5
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules|11.5|n/a|13.0|12.0|11.3

Critics Roundup — April 1

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Source Code|Green||Green||Green
Certifiably Jonathan (LA) |||Red||
Con Artist (LA) |||Green||
Elephant in the Living Room (LA) |||Yellow||
In a Better World (LA) |Yellow||Yellow|Green|
Le Quattro Volte (NYC) |||Green||
Super (LA-NYC) |Yellow||Green|Green|
Two Gates of Sleep (NYC) |||Green||
Trust (limited)|Yellow||||Green

Animating Source Code’s “Many Worlds” Theory

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Animating Source Code‘s “Many Worlds” Theory

Duncan Jones’ 9 Rules For The Aspiring SF Filmmaker

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Duncan Jones’ 9 Rules For The Aspiring SF Filmmaker

Infographic-ing Source Code

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Infographic-ing Source Code

Source Code’s Keeping A U.S. Tour Log, Including SXSW

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Source Code‘s Keeping A U.S. Tour Log, Including SXSW

Decoding Source Code’s Science

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Decoding Source Code‘s Science (spoiler-ish)

Geekiest Fan-Made Poster Of Week: Source Code As BASIC

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Geekiest Fan-Made Poster Of Week: Source Code As BASIC

Source Code, The Trailer

Monday, November 22nd, 2010