Source Code – Review

Source Code (2011) 

Directed by Duncan Jones. Starring Jake GyllenhaalMichelle MonaghanVera Farmiga

Source Code is a smart, suspenseful Sci-Fi action/thriller which takes the concept behind the hit comedy “Groudhog Day” and mixes it with some Twilight-Zone-Style elements in Hollywood style, for the post “Inception” era  (I know it sounds like a weird hybrid…) and somehow makes it the most exciting and original film I’ve seen this year.

As always the least you know about the film the better it is, but having said that, there are so many facets to Source Code, so many twists and turns that unless I sit down and tell you everything about it, you’ll still be surprised. But let me just tell you the rough plot, or at least the first few minutes.

Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) suddenly wakes up on a train in a state of complete confusion: the last thing he remembers is crashing his plane in Afghanistan and yet know he’s inside the body of a man named Sean. Across from him is Christina (Michelle Monaghan) who clearly knows him and yet he has no memory of her or any of the other people on the train heading to Chicago. Eight minutes later a bomb goes off and everyone on the train dies.

Colter wakes up again, this time he’s in a dark pod-like structure looking at a monitor with the face of a superior officer (Vera Farmiga), explaining to him that he’s part of a government experiment used to stop terrorism. Through a process called “Source Code”, Colter gets sent back (again and again and again) eight minutes before the moment before the explosion went off, find out where the bomb is and who set it and prevent a later and far greater attack by the same person in downtown Chicago.

Part of the fun of “Source Code” is watching our hero (Jake Gyllenhaal) re-live the same 8 minutes over and over again, each time in a slightly different way, each time getting closer and closer to the truth!

There are a couple of small clunky moments here and there (the biggest of which, is the scene, full of exposition, where we get told what “source code” is), but the sheer inventiveness, the fast pace and the emotional burden that the film carries are far greater that those little imperfections.

There are some debates about its ending (don’t worry, I’m not going to reveal it here). There is a point where you might think the film has actually ended: I’m referring to the long freeze frame (you’ll know what I mean when you see the film) and in fact it could have easily ended there, which would have made the film much more poignant and arguably better, but then the film carries on… and just when you think “Oh no, another Hollywood ending), the film takes a surprising final turn and gives you a few (slightly) unexpected twists right till the last moment and makes up for what you thought it was one of those “re-filmed-ending” after failed test screening.

There’s nothing better than a good unexpected ending! In the theatre where I watched it, it got everybody talking!

I haven’t had such fun watching a film in a very long time.

It’s a bit unfair to compare this with Inception (but it seems like everybody else is doing it). They are two completely different films and their only similarity is the fact that they both make you think and requires you to do some work while watching the story unfold.

However “Source Code” is an emotionally charged film too (while Inception, as we’ve  all noticed, was a tiny bit cold); I was almost moved to tears in couple of scenes and yet, the film still managed to have a lot of humor throughout (courtesy of Mr Gyllenhaal’s perfectly pitched performance).

What else can I say? I loved it! It might not be as stylish and fresh as Moon was (Duncan Jones’s previous film). This is certainly a bigger Hollywood fair, and a much more crowd-pleasing roller-coaster, but if you regard cinema as entertainment, you can’t get better than this!

9/10

The Adjustment Bureau – Review

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Directed by George Nolfi. Starring Matt DamonEmily BluntNatalie CarterJohn SlatteryTerence Stamp

Loosely adapted from a short story by Philip K Dick from 1954 (The adjustment team), the Adjustment Bureau tries to take the usual Dick’s elements about conspiracy and paranoia and mixes them up into what’s essentially a love story.

If you really wanted to take this film apart you’d probably have quite an easy time: of course, the original conceit is ludicrous, the plot holes are everywhere and when you stop and think about it for more than 5 minutes you might even be able to draw a line connecting all the dots much before the actual ending is revealed. But all that doesn’t take away from the fact that if you did manage to suspend your disbelief, you might actually enjoy the ride.

There are a few interesting ideas here and there: the argument about pre-destiny and free will, or the fact that happiness of spirit can make a fighting relax too much (successful politicians are people who are not very lucky in love and only a broken heart can give them the anger for a real political victory). None of them is highly original to be honest, or even dealt with in any depth, but it’s all added to the mix and it’s there for whoever care enough to pay attention to the details.

The film is more concerned with the actual romance between the two leads and they both play their parts in the best possible way. Matt Damon once again demonstrates his versatility (My God, how many films has he done recently!?!) and the chemistry with his co-star Emily Blunt is quite strong despite the absurdity of the plot itself (and that awkward first scene of them together in the bathroom, which is particularly contrived and seemed a bit out of place, compared to the rest of the film).

It’s interesting to notice that the film was meant to come out about 6 months ago but rumors of disappointing test screenings, re-shoots and some of the similarities people felt the film had with Inception, delayed the release of the film. In fact I believe it had 3 different release dates.

While it might not have the scope or ambition of Inception (it’s interesting that even the UK critic Mark Kermode calling it “Inception-Light”), at the same time the film is intriguing, entertaining and even romantic enough to sustain its length (mercifully only 106 minutes), though I must say there are as many plot holes as there are people working for the “adjustment bureau itself it seems… And moreover, I thought that the ending did come a bit too abruptly and felt rushed (I do wonder if that’s the one that was planned).

It is set in today’s world and yet it has a slightly retro feel, from the way it’s filmed to the way it’s paced and acted and even the way it looks (the way the “Adjustment Bureau People” are dressed, and even the lack of in-your-face-special-effects). It almost feels like one of those episodes of the Twilight Zone from the 60s. That feeling is then enhanced even more by the presence of people like John Slattery, that we are so used to see in Mad Man (that one too set in the 60s).

I saw this film about a week ago and I am already starting to forget it, so I suppose it’s not going to be one of those cult classic that will live forever, but while I was with it I had enough fun and I find it quite enjoyable.

6.5/10

BAFTA AWARDS 2011

BAFTA AWARDS 2011 – RESULTS & COMMENTS

The BAFTA Awards for 2011 have just been given out. Once again it proved how biased these awards are towards British Films. The King’s Speech was the big winner of the evening (no surprise there), grabbing all sorts of awards (7 in all). Here’s the list of all the winners and some quick comments from me.

Best Film – The King’s Speech

Like it was predicted. I wonder if in a few years time we’ll be remembering this film, or Inception and Toy Story 3. Oh well, it was so predictable.

Leading Actor – Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Well deserved I supposed, but my votes would have gone to James Franco, especially since Colin had won it last year.

Leading Actress – Natalie Portman – Black Swan

She was pretty amazing in that film, so totally deserved. And I am so happy that annoying  HAILEE STEINFELD didn’t get it for True Grit

Director – The Social Network – David Fincher

Well, I am happy it wasn’t Tom Hooper.. but it should have gone to Nolan for INCEPTION

Cinematography – True Grit – Roger Deakins

Totally deserved, though it was a hard choice, Matthew Libatique did a great job for BLACK SWAN and INCPETION (Wally Pfister) looked amazing!

Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

Well, there was no other choice for this, was there? He should get an Award every year just for his West Wing!!

Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award – Tom Hardy

Well deserved. He stole every scene in Inception and he’s going to be huge with the next Batman movie. Let’s face it ANDREW GARFIELD was Ok on the Social Network, but very transparent on Never Let Me Go

Animated Film – Toy Story 3

Well, of course. What else was there?

Original Screenplay – The King’s Speech – David Seidler

This was to be expected, but it’s a shame Inception couldn’t make it.I can see this might be one of those differences at the Oscars.

Supporting Actor – Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

One of the most controversial win, not because Geoffrey Rush didn’t deserve it, but because we all thought it was going to go to Christian Bale. I guess it was probably a way to punish Bale for his recent behavior. Anyway, his Oscar is coming soon…

Outstanding British Film – The King’s Speech

All pretty predictable of course, however since it got the Best film, this award should have really gone to somebody else. Mike Leigh’s Another Year for example was left empty-handed.

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer – Four Lions – Director/Writer – Chris Morris

This was also pretty predictable, but a lot of people though THE ARBRO  was a better film. My vote would have gone to EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP , a documentary which I really enjoyed, but also I would have loved to see Banksy collecting the award… hehehe.

Supporting Actress – Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

A bit of a travesty in my view. This performance was a real caricature and pretty one-dimensional. Brits love Helena, so it was all rather predictable. It’s a pity for LESLEY MANVILLE or ANY ADAMS

Special Visual Effects – Inception – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb

Well deserved.

Production Design – Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat

As Above

Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

A pretty obvious choice considering the nominees.

Film Not in the English Language – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev

I don’t really get this. I never really understood the success of this film, especially in a year when you have films like THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, and OF GODS AND MEN. However I’m happy BIUTIFUL didn’t get it, since it was the most depressing film of the year!

Make Up & Hair – Alice in Wonderland – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch

Well, the only other choice was HARRY POTTER, but then again, they’re probably waiting for the next one.

Editing – The Social Network – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

Following the rule that the best editing is the invisible one, then this is probably a deserved award. However it should have gone to Lee Smith for INCEPTION

Sound – Inception – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick

Well deserved, but the sound on 127 HOURS was truly amazing.

Original Music – The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

It was the obvious choice, but INCEPTION‘s music by Hans Zimmer was almost revolutionary and it is still the most memorable.

Short Animation – The Eagleman Stag – Michael Please

Short Film – Until the River Runs Red – Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis

After writing this list, I wrote to the Evening Standards the following email, an extract of which, once again, got published on the 15th of February. (It’s the second one they publish, the first  one was for Harry Potter)

After 63 years of BAFTA and 82 years of Oscars (and everything else in between), It must be really hard for these poor people to come up with an acceptance speech that is original, succinct, sharp, witty, but most importantly memorable.
Sam Leiht’s hit the nail right on the head: “better embarrassed than forgotten”. Last thing you want to do is to give a lousy speech: and yet there are still those who end up just making long list of boring names nobody knows anything about, or those who read from cue-cards!
For crying out-loud people: you’re actors!! Act! Remember your lines!! And perform for your audience!
I am not necessarily saying you have to do what Roberto Benigni did at the Oscars in ’99 (though that was pretty awesome.. and definitely memorable!), jumping up and down and shouting “I want to make love with all of you”, but I’m sure you could do better than just thanking your mom and your agent or your beautiful husband/wife.
That Bafta show last night was on the whole pretty lame, in my view, and the only real memorable speech was the one from Helena Bonham Carter (mainly because for some reason she was allowed to break the rule and to go on for a lot longer than she was allowed to).
In their defense, it must be said that nowadays there are too many Movie Awards around and, if you are Colin Firth, from the King’s Speech, you know you’re going to have speak more than once: so what do you do in that case? Do you give the same one over and over again, do you give your best earlier on (maybe at the Golden Globes), or do you hold out for the Oscars (because let’s face it, that’s the one that gets remembered).
I really hope Colin Firth opted for the latter as the one from last night was pretty forgettable… in fact I can’t even remember what he said.
It’s all probably part of a bigger discussion on whether we really need all these awards…
Warren Beatty was right on his acceptance speech in ’76 when he said “We want to thank all of you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight”, because that’s essentially what they all do. C’mon guys, be a bit more creative!

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