Source Code

Source Code

Following on from his story of Sam Rockwell – or Sam Rockwells – in isolation in 2008’s hard sci-fi reinvention Moon director Duncan Jones steps towards the mainstream with a smart action movie with a side order of science in Source Code.

Seemingly stuck in a loop of time our hero Jake Gyllenhaal is being used to try find information to stop a terrorist assault on a train but spends much time being wiped out every eight minutes. He loops around learning who will drop coffee on his foot and who will blow him up in a kind of Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) with fatal explosions.

Like Bill Murray living his day over and over chooses to get out of his loop by being a better man – although both cannot resist the chance to punch someone Ned Ryerson-like hard in the face without consequences – but unlike Murray who escapes with Andi McDowell Gyllenhaal’s reward is only to stop being in his Groundhog Day, or perhaps not, depending on if you believe the film believes in time travel.

In that way he recalls the French experimentalism of La jetée (1962, Chris Marker) in which a time traveller is sent back to try stop a future which it becomes clear he will create. Not that Marker would have ever have thought his future would have included 1995’s Terry Gilliam expansion 12 Monkeys in which Bruce Willis hops from grim future to equally grim past as he tries to stop things that have happened from happening.

Time, these movies tell is, is malleable and the future can be altered but often only to the world you are trying to change it from The paradox is the tragedy of the time traveller, unless you are Bill Murray, in which case your tragedy is having to choose between looking at either the same Gopher every day for the rest of your life or the dubious prize of McDowell.

Looking at Gophers being the sort of oddness which Thomas Jerome Newton of The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nic Roeg, 1973) would get up to rather than doing his job.

Newton is a space rather than time traveller and comes to Earth looking for water (there is plenty of it) but instead finds television, and other sins of the mind, and forgets all about his life living in an tent on a railway line in outer space. He falls into the travellers peril (time or space) or being stuck in the journey rather than the destination.

Newton is played by David Jones aka David Bowie, father of Duncan Jones, who it was said when he was younger had called his son Zowie Bowie but that no longer seems to have been the case.

Perhaps he went back in time and changed it.

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By Michael Wood in April, 2011.

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