If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Unlike actual source code, this twisty 2011 sci-fi thriller isn't even vaguely soul crushing and dull. Quite the opposite. Duncan Jones (he of "Moon" and earlier, David Bowie's nut sack) has made a film that brings to mind previous unforgettable experiments with non-linear film construction, like "Run Lola Run", "Donnie Darko", or "Memento". Not in the story, but because he manages to give his characters a soul amidst all their running through the complicated plot mechanics. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter, an Army helicopter pilot who wakes up on a train on the way to Chicago, completely unaware as to how he got there. He is just starting to get to know his traveling companion, Christina (Michelle Monaghan...yum) and is starting to deal with the fact that he appears to be in someone else's body, when the train explodes and every one dies. The end.
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No, just kidding. Well, not that the train explodes and everyone dies. They do. You see, Colter is still a pilot, only now of a very different stripe. He awakens from the disconcerting train reality ensconced in a strange capsule where an Air Force Captain (Vera Farmiga) communicates to him through a small screen. Turns out, he's a pilot for an experimental machine that can put his consciousness within some one else's in the past for eight minutes, but within an alternative timeline. The military is sending him back repeatedly to this train, which has already exploded in reality and killed everyone on board, not so he can stop the bomb, because he can't, but to try and discover who planted the bomb so they can stop him in reality before he explodes a nuclear bomb. Confused? Not as much as Colter who last remembers ground fighting in Afghanistan. How did he get here? Where is here? Who are these people? How in the hell is he supposed to get this information at 8 minutes a shot? Pay attention and all will be made clear. "Source Code" is one of the most exciting and inventive films in what has turned out to be a pretty darn good year altogether for film, so that's really saying something.
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JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL (DVD)
There's no other way to say it. This is "Team America" for Britain, only set during an alternative WWII versus the Nazis. That's probably as much synopsis as is really necessary to draw in the film's intended audience, who'll likely have a ball watching the animatronic puppets do their thing. Certainly it's not as crude (or even mean spirited) as Trey Parker and Matt Stone's fun 2004 satire of hyperbolically patriotic entertainment (although it has its moments), but it shares a similar way of having fun with their country's sense of self. Ewan McGregor, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson, Dominic West, Alan Cumming, and Stephen Merchant all voice some of the characters in this story where a Nazi digging machine leads to a succesful underground invasion of London. Winston Churchill and a patriotic farm boy with weirdly over-sized hands lead a mixed group of survivors being chased by the Germans, until they're forced to make a stand in mysterious, haunted, 'here there be dragons', Scotland. There's certainly a lot of fun to be had here, although I suspect much more for the English than a clueless American like me (I felt like I was missing a lot of the jokes). Some of the humor is gutbusting funny, but there's entire sequences that suffer from ridiculously obvious joke syndrome: no one should ever, EVER, make a "Braveheart" joke again....that teat has been milked dry. But, to be fair, "Team America" had its share of awkwardly unfunny sequences as well. I'm hoping we see more films in the future using this kind of puppeteering from the director/writer team, the McHenry Brothers.
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