I’ve always been fascinated with art that takes the concept of time and space and turns it inside out. You can’t quite follow the logic, getting every puzzle piece in the right place, and that’s not the point of it. You’re not expected to understand. All you need to do is to accept it as a different sort of reality, oblige to suspension of your disbelief, just enjoying the beauty, the coolness and the wonder.
It must have started with the printings of M.C. Escher hanging on the walls at home when I was a child. I watched the people walking up and down in stairs at the same time, defying all laws of nature and I watched the strange möbius strips, twisting and turning in a ways I couldn’t figure out.
Somehow they represented optimism and hope, showing that the things we think are impossible in fact aren’t. It’s just a matter of perspective. Life is full of possibilities; it’s just that we don’t always see them right away.
With this background I don’t think it comes as a surprise that movies that play with time and space are so well represented on my top-100 list of movies. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Truman Show, 12 Monkeys, Minority Report,Brazil, The Matrix, Groundhog Day, Being John Malcovitch, Inception, they’re all there. And I don’t think I’d ever have loved Star Trek as much if it wasn’t for the episodes with a “be careful when you mess with the timeline” theme.
Judging from this, Source Code, with its plot about a guy who’s re-experiencing the same eight minutes over and over again, trying to figure out who put the bomb in the train, should suit me well. And it did. I found myself quite engaged, thrilled and well entertained throughout the entire movie, never paying attention to any other time than the race-against-the-clock inside the film.
One Swedish critic said that it had “some of the coolness of Inception and the atmosphere of 12 Monkeys. And a good filmic idea from Groundhog Day, thoroughly darkened and tweaked, with quant physical explanations.” Another critic – less enthusiastic – thought that it turned repetitive after a while, more resembling to “Robocop meets Back to the Future”.
I’m more on the line with the one who liked it, even though it won’t quite qualify for my top 100 list. It would have needed a little bit more darkness and depth to take a spot among my favourite time & space twisters.
I don’t think the way they tell the story is bad, but the quick pace just doesn’t allow for much philosophical brooding over things, even though Jake Gyllenhaal does a wonderful performance, making his character into something more than just a shallow standard save-the-world hero.
And then there’s the end, which has been targeted for quite a bit of criticism. Yes, I agree with those who think that you could easily have ended the movie about five minutes earlier, making it more interesting, logical and still beautiful and fulfilling, But it’s no worse than I can live with it. Maybe it’s what it takes to keep the movie commercially viable, and if so, sure, go ahead.
All in all I couldn’t complain. I got a lovely night of twisting in time and space, just as I had hoped for.
That’s the magic about Escher’s paintings too. They never grow old.
Source Code (Jones,US, 2011) My rating: 4/5