Source Code and Rubber

Adventure travel


Source Code

Crazy day. One minute you're in Afghanistan, fighting a war, the next you're on a commuter train to Chicago, sitting across from a woman you've never seen before who's nattering away like she knows you. She keeps calling you Sean. Which is not your name. Very strange. Then the train blows up.

Source Code is a tight little sci-fi thriller with a nice, knotty premise, and it does its job in a commendable 93 minutes. It's a lot of fun, and its time-crunching suspense, heightened by the efficiency of its execution—the nimble way it's been blocked, shot, and edited—sticks in your mind. The director, Duncan Jones, whose low-budget Moon was one of the niftiest surprises of 2009, has a natural facility for science fantasy, and here, given more money to work with, he brings off another small genre gem.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Colter Stevens, the man on the train, an Army helicopter pilot whose life only appeared to end in that fiery explosion. He subsequently finds himself someplace else, with a monitor near at hand on which an Air Force officer named Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) explains that Stevens has been on a secret mission into the very recent past—only a few hours previously—to find the bomb that blew up that train and, more important, the man who placed it onboard. The bomber, it seems, has planned an even more-lethal follow-up atrocity.

Stevens is still baffled. So Colleen's boss, a frosty doctor named Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), joins her to help clarify what's happening. Stevens, it turns out, is part of a government experiment involving "source code," a new technology that allows someone to be inserted into the mind of another person during the last eight minutes of that person's life. Asked exactly how this whatever-it-is works, Rutledge offers a timeless sci-fi explanation: "It's very complicated."

The rest of the picture follows Stevens on repeated eight-minute missions back to the ill-fated train. Each time, hassling suspicious passengers and desperately searching for likely bomb-hiding places, he unearths a new clue. He also grows increasingly fond of the woman sitting opposite him, the bright, pretty Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). But his return visits are inevitably cut short by that ball of fire before he can solve the puzzle.

The structure of Ben Ripley's script, with its cuticle-chewing race against time, strongly recalls Alfred Hitchcock, as does Chris Bacon's nerve-pinch score, which is richly reminiscent of the master's favored composer, Bernard Herrmann. And what might have been a one-note tale blossoms with intriguing ramifications. Slowly falling in love with Christina, Stevens becomes determined to save her life. But Rutledge tells him he can't—she's already dead, the train having been destroyed a few hours earlier. (Here, in traditional sci-fi fashion, the story begins not adding up, but so what.)

Gyllenhaal, competent as always, gets solid support from his costars. Monahan, mainly confined to repeating the same lines of dialog each time Stevens revisits the train, radiates a beaming sweetness that grows on us as much as it grows on him—we understand his interest. And Farmiga, whose character is little more than a face on a screen, manages to convey deepening emotional shifts. But the sharp, tricky story is the real star here, and Jones, a director of clear gifts, knows just how to drive it home.


The movie: a French production, but in English. The plot: a serial killer rolls into town. The star: a tire.

Quentin Dupieux's Rubber isn't as much nutty fun as you'd hope; still, it's a likably odd little film, shot on a consumer-grade SLR camera equipped with a video mode, on a budget that might not cover the wardrobe outlay for a big Hollywood movie. It's a cute riff on the killer-machine horror genre, although the director's interests are mainly meta.

The picture opens with an actor asking us, "In the movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason." Then: "In the movie JFK, why is the president shot by someone he doesn't know? No reason." Then: "The movie you are about to see is an homage to 'no reason.'"

Thus freed from customary narrative constraints, Dupieux—who wrote, directed, shot, and edited the film—next shows us a group of people on a nearby hill preparing to observe the coming cinematic action through binoculars. ("Is it going to be in color or black-and-white?" a girl asks.) Then we see a cast-off tire squirming to life by the side of a dusty road. The tire has a taste for carnage (for which of course no reason is adduced). After practicing its explosive powers on some local wildlife, it moves on to higher vertebrates, following a woman in a car to a shabby desert motel, where the tire checks in—rather violently—and kicks back in a comfy chair to watch a NASCAR race on TV. More bloody explosions ensue. Police arrive and bumble about. The people on the hill keep up a running commentary.

All very cute, and sometimes quite funny. ("Is the tire gonna get laid?" one observer wonders as the star peeps in on a showering woman.) And the tracking shots, as we follow the remote-controlled menace on its alarming rounds, are pretty impressive. But the movie is short on surprise—it's not really wild enough. Its energy ebbs, and it begins to drag. Well before its 85 minutes have elapsed, it runs out of gas.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York. 

NEXT: The Defection of Moussa Koussa

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  1. Rubber will be the greatest movie since Killdozer.

    1. Killdozer?

      Screw that, it’s all about Thankskilling

      Gobble, Gobble, Motherfucker

  2. I watched Rubber the other night, and Loder’s review is about right. From the preview it looks like it could be quite funny, but it was a bit of a letdown. Still, it is kind of clever and it was not at all what I was expecting. It seemed like a good idea that they either didn’t take quite far enough, or in quite the right direction.

    1. I read that it would’ve made a really good short but didn’t have enough material for a full feature. Concur?

      1. That sounds about right. Toward the end it seemed like he was tacking on shit to extend the time. By that point he had already made his point and gotten what laughs he could out of the material.

  3. Source Code sounds like watching someone play a video game, badly. Where they keep getting killed, and have to restart at the last save.

    Actually it sounds like it will be worth watching, but the fail and restart cycle is all too familiar to gamers.

    1. Christopher Nolan plays video games with the intention of dying just so he can do that very same thing.

    2. Aaargh! We just can’t kill that boss in the third room! Okay everyone, take your bio breaks, we’re running this raid again in ten minutes…

  4. I am definitely going to see rubber at Alamo Drafthouse next week, nothing like a pitcher of microbrew and cheap horror movie.

  5. I really liked ‘Moon’ and am looking forward to seeing ‘Source Code’

    My only quibble with the review was:

    “He also grows increasingly fond of the woman sitting opposite him, the bright, pretty Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan).”

    As opposed to a Hollywood film where a fat, ugly (or average) woman sits across from him and becomes his love interest? Even the broad who played Ugly Betty is fairly hot…

    1. I’m surprised that Source Code got a positive review. Just its name is stupid unless they somehow tie computer source code to…going back in time 8 minutes. Usually when a movie is stupid in its name, there is a lot of stupidity in the plot. Maybe there is, and Loder just doesn’t know it because he doesn’t know computers.

      I’m going to need some other opinions.

      1. I’m surprised as well. The plot looks pretty shopworn and tired. Somewhere in Time meets Time Cop meets Groundhog Day.

        It looks like it would only be interesting only if you’ve never seen anything involving time travel before.

        1. God, I hate Somewhere in Time. So fucking maudlin. Yet it’s based on a Richard Matheson book, and I usually love Matheson.

          1. “source code,” a new technology that allows someone to be inserted into the mind of another person

            Oh, and meets Quantum Leap.

            1. I think the only two timetravel movies worth watching are:

              Twelve Monkeys

              Actually, throw in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

              1. Oh, and Star Trek IV.

                1. Uhh…Back to the Future? Various versions of The Time Machine by Wells? Time Bandits? The Terminator?

                  I could go on, but you get my point.

                2. How could you omit Freejack?

                  I keed. Other worthwhile time travel movies:

                  Time After Time
                  The Time Machine (1960)
                  Time Bandits

                  1. Don’t forget Peggy Sue Got Married!

                    Uh, I think I just made myself sick.

                    1. That’s an excellent movie.

                    2. The important thing is, does it have Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga)’s ass from Up in the Air?

                  2. They might be remaking Time Bandits.

                    Yeah, I know. :-\

          2. “Based on…”

            I Am Legend was based on I Am Legend. (Unless you’re saying Somewhere In Time was substantially truer to the idea behind Matheson’s novel than that 2007 abomination).

            1. I Am Legend, the Will Smith film, deviates so much, and so terribly, from the novel that I don’t even think “based on” is appropriate. “Inspired by”, maybe.

              I don’t know if Somewhere in Time follows Bid Time Return that well; it’s not really my kind of Matheson novel.

              1. “Inspired by”, maybe.

                Parasitic comes to mind. So does metastasized.

        2. And my time is a piece of wax, fallin’ on a termite. That’s chokin on the splinters

      2. Yeah, it probably made more sense to name the movie Revision Control or something.

      3. The trailer does look awful. I think I’ll stay home and watch Outland again instead.

        1. How did Peter Hyams go from making stuff like Capricorn One and Outland to really mediocre crap like The Relic and End of Days?

          We won’t mention Timecop here.

          1. Don’t forget 2010, with it’s clumsy, plodding direction and Roy Schieder doing his best Stossel imitation.

            1. Thanks for reminding me, jerkoff.

              Running Scared was fun at least.

              1. Forgot all about Running Scared. Yes, not bad as buddy flicks go.

                I have a distant memory that Hyams was supposed to direct Dune. Does that ring a bell?

                1. Nope. Alejandro Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott were both signed, but both those production attempts failed and were scrapped.

      4. Maybe they unraveled the Source code beyond the edge of the known universe, in the Promethean Galaxy. They need to be careful with it lest Darkseid get’s a hold of it and derives the Antilife equation.

    2. Michelle Monaghan is not a typical Hollywood bombshell-type. But if they gave out Oscars for “radiat[ing] a beaming sweetness that grows on us”, she would have a closet full of them.

  6. Source Code reminds me of two more very well-made films that play with time and memory, namely Timecrimes and The Butterfly Effect.
    This ‘altered reality’ theme seems to be a mainstay of modern cinema. I guess writers find it more fun than the standard plots, (which number about seven, so I’m told). In the case of Butterfly Effect, the story could be summarised as:
    1. Boy meets girl
    2. Boy gets girl
    3. Boy gets BOY (in prison, almost!)
    4. Girl gets other boy
    5. Boy contrives never to meet girl, to their mutual benefit.
    If that sounds puzzling, I can recommend the film -pretty dark in places.

  7. With that leg shot, she could be a guest on Redeye.

  8. Rubber isn’t a French porn film

    I am disappoint 🙁

  9. We attempted to watch Rubber last week. I feel asleep about 20 minutes into it.

    It was boring an inexplicably stupid about 30 seconds into it.

  10. I think I’ll skip both and instead get drunk, put on some Furby porn, and toss some little anon bots onto a sock or some other ready fabric. Twins, basil, twins. LOL


    1. Jeebus. SkyNet is not only self-aware, its bored and pervy.

  11. Source Code sounds like Deja Vu without Denzel.

    1. This. No “X meets Y meets Z” required, it’s just a Deja Vu remake. Though, I don’t think that me and the other 4 people that actually saw Deja Vu are really going to raise enough of a stink to stop Source Code.

  12. Saw a movie called “Below” on dvd last night. Not having any familiarity with the haunted/WWII submarine/noir genre, I gave it a whirl and actually found it quite entertaining.

  13. What? No “Seven Days” comments? TV series? They can send a metal sphere back seven days in time to prevent disasters? Anyone? Started out OK, but there was a point where it went downhill so fast it felt like intentional creative sabotage.

  14. I have just lost some respect for Kurt. Moon was just plain awful.

  15. QD, I thought of 7 DAYS when I saw the 1st commercial for SOURCE CODE. I guess that’s why they didn’t call it 8 MINUTES. Project Backstep might have wanted royalties.

    The chick who played the Russian Scientist on 7D was the hotness.


  16. This movie has some nike sb skunk dunks for sale of the same flaws I saw in another attempt at a faithful adaptation of a work of fantastic literature long thought unfilmable, Zach Snyder’s 2009 version of Watchmen…That is, it kobe 7 for sale struck me as a series of filmed recreations of scenes from the famous novel

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