Friday, May 25, 2012

Retroactive 2010

People, please!  Groundhog Day, The Matrix, Minority Report... what Source Code's source code is is 1997's Retroactive starring perpetual alpha-male James Belushi.  It's a lot like Groundhog Day, except it takes place in a car driving through the desert.
But I've said too much already.  Let me get the praise out of the way.  Jake Gyllenhaal does a fine job as the center of the story, and Michelle Monaghan was delightful.  I almost thought she was the terrorist at one point!  Such an alpha female!  Cinematographer Don Burgess, veteran of films like Forrest Gump, Contact, and 2002's Spider Man is clearly slumming here.  But I give him credit, as it looked more like film and less like blurry digital video tape or whatever the hell they shoot movies on these days.  However, much of the film looked like it was done on a green screen set... but that's part of the plot, innit?  As for Russell Peters, well... you'll hit the big time yet.  Try and get Aasif Mandvi's job on The Daily Show, then we'll talk.  And as one of the other critics points out, Geoffrey Wright kinda chews the scenery here.  He's going to get flak from his fellow black thespians for it, I hope.  Especially Andr√© Braugher.
Okay... SPOILER ALERT.  As for the convoluted plot.  All sci-fi plots have to be these days.  We start with a simple case of mistaken identity on a train, and we build from there.  The train explodes and there's a terrible crash.  As it turns out, the train is part of a simulation that exists only in a computer, and only in Jake Gyllenhaal's mind.  Nevertheless, he's able to move around in this virtual environment and interact with the people in it.  They're mostly bully archetypes so it's not terribly interesting.  On top of it all, he's supposed to find the terrorist who is responsible for the bombing. 
This seems more like a job for a Robocop or a policeman, but Gyllenhaal, in addition to being a crackerjack helicopter pilot, is a bit of a detective as well and relishes his role of working over the virtual suspects in this virtual world, looking for the right cell phone.  I'm afraid the overarching structure raises more questions than answers, at least for the likes of me. I guess that's the price of technological progress, though: we can recreate a virtual world with enough detail to simulate real life, and most of the things in it, but only a person in a coma-like state can have access to it.  With technology like this, no wonder we're losing the war on terror.

...was that a high enough high note to end on?  Probably not?  Okay, I'll keep going.  Not to mention the ending.  I thought Vera Farmiga pulled the plug on him!  Was the whole movie just a dream?  Is the Geoffrey Wright character just that forgiving, even though Vera's character basically destroyed his future success?  Does Jake Gyllenhaal eventually stop worrying and love his state of perpetual near-death employment?  Every PG-13 movie these days gets one "F--k" and I'll say this for Source Code: Jake delivers his "F--k you!" at exactly the right time.  Maybe not soon enough... oh, but there I go again.  I'm just too picky, I admit it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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