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Art and Review by: Daniel Albert

I suppose the saying “expect the unexpected” is a worthy advisory phrase for any Darren Aronofsky film.  Having previously viewed some of his other movies (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) I knew quite well what he was capable of, yet adhered to this motto and expected to be given something I couldn’t imagine. Fortunately for me, and I do stress the word fortunately, I wasn’t too sure of the depths he would take his new film Black Swan, and after viewing it I have to say he once again gave me something completely unexpected, even if that’s what I expected.

As I said before I’m no stranger to the mans work.  With this viewing background in tow, along with a high intensity trailer and the header of “psychological thriller”, I knew this was going to be a dark film.  What I didn’t know is just how truly dark the movie could be. 
Black Swan is one of those movies that sneaks up on you.  It plays more like a concerto than a film, using every instrument in the pit to paint a visceral picture for its audience.  It starts off slow and steady, lulling you into the depths of its world, using every tool in the director’s arsenal.  The cinematography is so pitch perfect I felt myself getting agitated more and more with every shot, a discomfort that is completely intentional and in no way haphazard.

What surprised me most about the film however wasn’t just the skilled hand of the artisan behind the scenes, but instead the delicate strokes he used.  The film is essentially about Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) a fragile and timid girl obsessed with perfection.  Nina is finally given her chance to shine at the ballet where she’s been working and we watch her character’s descent into madness, as an obsession with perfection becomes so complete it manifests itself in every facet of the film.  The farther into the depths the she goes, the farther down we go with her, without remorse, because well, hey you kinda asked for it. 

As I watched I got swept along so subtly I hardly felt a transformation at all until the film reached its crescendo and I found myself thinking “Did I see what I think I just saw or am I going nuts?”.  My madness, like many others I’m sure, is in a large part due to a tour de force portrayal of the swan queen by  Portman that will surely earn her Oscar nods come awards season.  The dichotomy of her character makes one wonder whether or not she used a split personality disorder to carry it off so effortlessly.

Being a dark film, there is always the line a director is never allowed to cross where entertainment becomes torture.  A director should never turn on the audience and as this movie progresses Aronofsky traverses this line like a tightrope walker, always pushing but never too far.  Every graphic or violent or disturbing scene serves its purpose as part of a whole and nothing is left in that isn’t absolutely essential.  If the director wants you to be scared or agitated he shows it and if he wants you to be sympathetic he switches gears seamlessly.

However with all this talk of darkness I tread lightly,  I’m definitely not saying there’s no beauty in this film. After all, at the end of the day it is set within a rendition of Swan Lake. What I am saying is that even though the film has heavily dark undertones, the beauty still manages to shine through. In fact I’d have to say that one of the darkest scenes, when Nina’s transformation into the Black Swan is finally complete, I was taken aback by one of the most visually stunning scenes I’ve seen in years.  It was lyrical and sad, reverent, yet twisted and frightening.  You know a film has done it’s job when you experience more than one emotion at a time.

Before I heap more praise upon this movie I’ll just stop and say this film is everything everyone claims it to be, and perhaps even more.  It’s heartfelt and visually stunning, terrifying and sensual, and even at times a bit funny.  You don’t have to be a film snob to enjoy this one.

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The Fighter

Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
Going into The Fighter I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Of course I knew it was about boxing and also that it was based on a true story, but those are the only two things I really knew about it, so I wondered what was in store.  Would I find a Raging Bull reboot?  Or maybe some cheesy reincarnation of the Rocky saga? 
I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Fighter was neither.  Instead of a formulaic “climb to the top” type fight flick, The Fighter actually proved to be quite complex.  That’s not to say the story doesn’t follow a common character arc, it certainly does, but instead of following the life of just the boxer in the ring we also follow the one struggling to get back in. 

At a glance most would suspect The Fighter is about “Irish” Micky Ward (played deftly by Mark Wahlberg).  Ward has become known as a stepping stone in his small hometown of Lowell after several tough losses mostly in part due to poor management from his mother.  But as the camera pans out and our point of view broadens we begin to see another fighter, brother turned trainer and ex-boxing pro Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Dicky is also partially to blame for Ward’s slump as his crack addiction and lackadaisical attitude towards training hinder Ward’s preperation dramatically.

It would’ve been possible for Director David O’Russell to focus on Ward’s ascension individually, but half the film would’ve been lost.  At times Bale’s portrayal of Eklund, the one time all-star of Lowell who “knocked down” Sugar Ray-Leonard, outshines everyone including Wahlberg, giving nuance to one of the best performances of his career.  Dicky’s drug addiction, which he uses to blind himself from the fact that he’s been riding his famed coattails for much too long, becomes almost as much of a central part in the movie as Ward’s title fight, as we get to see fictionally the filming of a real HBO Documentary: High On Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell.

With the addition of this storyline comes the depth of Wahlberg’s character.  Not only does he have to train to fight in the ring, but he also has to battle his way from out of his brother’s shadow.  In addition he has to tread lightly on the decision of whether to cut his family loose and perhaps get the quality training he deserves or keep his family in charge and possibly ruin his career, and his life, forever.

When the time comes for the actual scene of the title fight you’re so emotionally involved with the characters you can’t help but root for Ward.  Not only that, but the cinematography is so pitch perfect that it doesn’t feel stilted or recycled, but instead fresh and exhilerating.  Sure you’ve seen boxing before in movies, but overall this movie plays out like there was a drama being filmed and then a fight broke out.

Rating: A

LET ME IN
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert

To begin let me say that Horror is not a genre I typically enjoy and in a time where Twihards rule the roost Let Me In had me more than a bit leary. Add to that the fact that this movie is a remake of an already largely popular Swedish version based on the Novel of the same name by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist and you have, to me at least, a recipe for disaster.
What I found during Let Me In however suprised me immensely. Instead of some Twilight love story rip-off, (which would’ve made me want to gouge my eyes out), the movie depicts a quirky love story where one of the characters happens to be a vampire. The story takes place in the 1980s which adds to the overall nostalgia of the film, as sprinkled throughout is the clever integration of bits of 80s pop culture.
The plot is essentially about a young boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is constantly bullied at school.  When a strange new girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves in with her guardian (Richard Jenkins), Owen jumps at the chance to befriend her, longing for some kind of companionship, despite her original resistance to their relationship.  As the story progresses we realize that Abby is actually a vampire with an aged mind trapped in the body of a 12 year old girl.
From here the movie could’ve gone in a million different directions.  It could’ve played out like a typical slasher film killing off characters one by one or a sappy “oh woah is me, I’m a baby vampire” flick (despite the fact this actually worked in Interview with the Vampire), but it doesn’t play out like a horror film at all. Instead Director Matt Reeves delivers an almost lyrical look at the troubles of childhood, bullying, and the progression of a great friendship between the two main characters.
What impressed me most about the film was how delicately each storyline was not only treated by the director, but acted by the characters.  We get to peek inside the psyche of each character individually, pulling the scope of the film well beyond the boundaries of normalcy.  Even secondary characters like Abby’s guardian get more than a cursory glance as we watch him reach his wits end, a broken man commiting gruesome acts in order to provide for his child. 
As I said this before this movie hardly plays out like your typical horror movie.  However after viewing it I feel its placement in this category is the only logical choice that could be made.  Had Let Me In been put in any category but horror it would’ve been torn to shreds by critics at first sight of gore (and yes this movie has quite a bit).  That being said this movie actually has quite a few strategically placed laughs and moments so uncomfortable you can’t help but chuckle with nervousness, adding some much needed innocence to a sometimes very dark film.  Overall a fine piece of film, both aestheically pleasing and more than adequately entertaining.
Rating: A

THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
Upon immediate viewing of the trailer for David Fincher’s most recent, and most poignant, biopic-esque film The Social Network, I was hooked.  Also being a fan of the man’s work didn’t hurt.  With films like Seven, Fight Club, and The Game I knew from the get go this wasn’t just a movie about a social networking website.  Imagine my surprise when quite a few people I knew had no desire to see it stating “It looks so stupid who wants to watch a movie about Facebook?”
Were they even paying attention?  The trailers for The Social Network were so obviously beyond just a “Facebook Movie” that I legitimately got upset at the ignorance with which it was cast aside.
Upon viewing I was proven correct.  The Social Network is surely this generation’s most socially conscious yet dramatically traditional film.  Every key aspect of a well plotted drama is there; friendship, love, betrayal, sex, humor, violence, Fincher’s film has it all.
While it is indeed the story of the founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg (played exceptionally by Jesse Eisenberg), this plotline ends up being only a sliver of the film as a whole.  Instead we get an onslaught of fully fleshed out characters all fighting for their piece of a multi-billion dollar idea.  The Winklevoss twins (portrayed through some exceptional cinematical magic by Armie Hammer) are the quinessential social elite, used to getting their way come hell or high water, refusing to give up what they claim is their original idea.  Edwuardo Saverin (played equally as well by Andrew Garfield, despite the Oscar snub) is the friend turned enemy as a simple idea turns into a virtual cash cow.  Other secondary characters such as Napster know-it-all Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and love interest/ex girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) are a bit of exemplary casting that end up filling out the character list nicely.

It’s these characters that form a sort of Ivy League melting pot that is not only believable, but extremely interesting.  Each has their own story to tell which ends up fitting together without the slightest gap, adding to the overall sense of low key drama within the film. 

Although it’s been said (especially by Mark himself) that Eisenberg’s mannerisms were indulgent and over the top it hardly matters.  Most of us will never meet Mark Zuckerberg and at the end of the day Eisenberg is portraying him, not mimicking him.  You want so bad to hate him for his condescending nature and shun him for his awkward social skills, but in the end you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.  That’s how good the film is!  It has you feeling a bit sorry for a multi-billionaire!

Beautifully shot and overall compelling I’d add this movie to my friends list any day.

Rating: A

True Grit
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
As my excitement to see yet another Coen Brothers take on the old west grew to a fever pitch, True Grit started to worry me.  I tried to block out all the praise I was hearing to avoid putting the film on a pedestal before I even set foot in a theatre, as I wanted to view it with a completely fresh approach.  This is also the reason I chose to forego seeing the John Wayne original (a classic in its own right), allowing myself an uninfluenced and unbiased opinion of the film.

What I found upon watching it was pretty standard Coen Brothers.  Vibrant dialogue, stunning visuals, and an overall sense of urgency that keeps the pace on point and holds your attention until the final frame.  However there was something not right about the film as a whole when I finished watching it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Was it the acting? Jeff Bridges version of Rooster Cogburn is untouchable and newcomer Hailee Stanfield (as Mattie Ross) holds her own against her Hollywood heavyweight counterparts, without skipping a beat.  Hell even Barry Pepper, who in my opinion seems to steal the show at times to become a more important foe than Josh Brolin’s Tom Chaney, is impeccible in his scenes, as is Matt Damon as LeBeouf.
So if it wasn’t the scenery, which in the hands of the Coen brothers seems otherworldly in its beauty, or the acting, which again is spot on, what could it be?  Upon further contemplation I began to piece it together.

As the film approached its climactic confrontation I found myself trying to guess what the big twist would be.  Would Rooster die? Would Mattie? Would there be a huge train chase or a saloon gunfight?  I sat and waited yet no big twist came. What transpired was completely straightforward film making, which was very well done, but it left me wanting more.

Looking back now I realize the problem.  I’ve been so conditioned to feel like there has to be a huge twist in a film that I completely overlooked how refreshingly simple the outcome played out.  Not only was it satisfying but it was logical!  No leap of faith needed in order to maintain a suspension of disbelief.  It wasn’t necessary at all for True Grit to conclude any other way, because the conclusion was poignant, elegant and completely in sync with the overall tone of the film.

Huge twist or not True Grit completely lived up to all the hype and then some, proving once again that Joel and Ethan Coen can put together a Western that’ll put dust in your lungs.

Get Low
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
Get Low, despite its list of high profile actors, is probably a film that flew under a lot of people’s radars.  This could be for a variety of reasons.  The marketing budget was probably the size of something somewhere between Thumbelina’s bathtub and Lincoln’s chin hairs on a penny.  The director Aaron Schneider isn’t exactly a household name, in lieu of the fact that he is the man behind the lens on several hollywood hits (cinematographer on Kiss the Girls and Director of Photography on Titanic).  Or it may just of have been unclear to viewers what type of movie Get Low is, a comedy or a drama, as scenes in the trailer misled the public into thinking one way or another what to expect.
              
I however, like all good critics, tried my damndest to go into Get Low with no expectations or preconcieved notions, a feat, although difficult, that seemed to pay dividends.  The film is a period piece set in the 1930’s telling the part tall tale, part truth story of Tennessee hermit Felix Bush’s self thrown live-in funeral.  With a synopsis like that it’s no wonder that people had trouble trying to peg this movie down.

Obviously with an all-star cast, acting is not a problem for the film.  Everyone plays their role superbly, although the purpose of such roles are not clearly defined.  At times funeral director Frank Quinn (played by Bill Murray) seems a bit out of place.  With that said he adds a lightness to the film, which would border on too dark without it.  Juxtaposed with the humor is a taught drama involving an ambiguous fire, the films first frames, setting up an intriguing mystery involving the self forced exile of Felix Bush.

Also, with a skilled cinematographer like Schneider the overall look of the film is not only consistent, but beautifully accurate, especially when it comes to the tone of a movie set in the 1930’s.  The problem is, there are shots interjected that serve no purpose, introducing storylines that aren’t developed, leading the audience in a mulitiude of directions, only to backtrack them to the main plot moments later by sweeping entire sideplots (or at least what seems like sideplots), under the rug.

Had I gone into the film looking for a comedy I would have been sorely dissapointed, and likewise would I have left upset if I was looking for an Oscar worthy drama.  But going in with an open mind, what I got was a middle of the road film leaning closer to the exceptional end of the spectrum than the turkey end. 

The Adjustment Bureau
Artwork and Review by: Daniel Albert
For years now the collective works of Philip K. Dick have been a treasure trove of source material for Hollywood.  With some films paying homage truthfully (Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly,Total Recall, Minority Report) and others butchering source material like the Muppet’s Swedish Chef (Next, Paycheck),  you never know what you’re going to get going into a film based on the writings of one of the greatest sci-fi minds of all times.  Hell sci-fi in general is a genre that lends itself to all or nothing films leaving very little wiggle room for those who dare to take the plunge.
Which is why I was hesitant about The Adjustment Bureau.  Based on the short story by PKD The Adjustment Team, the film delves into some heavier themes (fate, free will etc.), albeit with a light, and at some times silly, approach.  Despite being hesitant however I was encouraged by the fact that the film was based on a short story and not a novel, as it leaves filmmakers more room to work with, usually having to add in content, rather than delete it.  This is not to say all novel adaptations are bad and all short story adaptations are good because, well, we’ve all seen results that counter that hypothesis.
What I found in The Adjustment Bureau was mostly good.  The movie is solidly acted by the two leads, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, whose chemistry onscreen is so palpable you can’t help but root for them.  Visually the movie is stunning, especially in the chase scenes highlighting the sci-fi elements of the film.  Other than that the dialogue was snappy and fresh and explained some very conceptually tough subjects quite succinctly.
But as is the problem with many sci-fi films The Adjustment Bureau try’s to explain away non existant plotholes by inventing subtle nonsense about how its fictional world works.  Does it really matter that  the adjusters have trouble reading the decisions of the adjustees when they’re near water?  It comes into play later in the movie of course, but I found myself thinking, “They could have easily left that unexplained and it wouldn’t have changed the film at all”.  Same with the nonsensical “magic hats” the adjusters have to wear in order for them to use the special series of doors to move about the city rapidly.  If I’m gonna buy into the fact that there are people who can alter my fate magically do I really need to think that this hat is the key to their success?
As I said before however the good in this film far outweighs the bad.  If you sit back and relax and give the film a bit of latitude when it comes to the fictional world the characters live in you’ll find one of the finest love stories made in the past decade.  Not only that but you’ll find an enjoyable film that tackles some of man’s most complex ideas and comes out the back end with its dignity in tact (even if it is a little bruised and bloodied).
Those who go in looking for a hard thriller, as the trailers may have untruthfully alluded to, will surely be disappointed.  But go in, grain of salt in hand, and you will enjoy this film immensely.
Limitless
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
From the start Limitless was right up my alley.  A sci fi thriller with a highly original premise that also stars three very high caliber actors is something that doesn’t come along very often (although we’ve been lucky enough to have a 2nd recently with the release of The Adjustment Bureau).  So when it came time to view the film I dove in head first hopeful to come out the back end with a new film to add to my collection of sci fi favorites.
I’ll spare you all the “Limitless is actually quite limited” pun that most writers have been wetting themselves over since the movie’s release and give it to you straight.  Limitless is a very good film.  In fact it could have even been a great film, if it weren’t for a few unnecessary lapses in judgment on the part of all involved.
The plot goes something like this.  Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer living in New York waiting for the world to decide his fate.  Eddie is one of those guys who’s got so much potential you just want to shake him, yet his lack of motivation drives his life further down the tubes, and his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has had enough.
Enter Eddie’s ex brother in law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), a sleazeball pusher with the key to all his problems; a little clear pill that let’s one tap into the unused percentage of their brain that holds a wealth of knowledge and useful information.  The drug works for a while until side effects arise including black outs, being chased by bands of thugs, deterioration of the body, and the threat of withdrawal due to a dwindling supply.
As I said before this is a very good film.  To start with the visuals are so engrossing and provocative that you hardly remember you’re watching a film at all.  Even hardcore moviegoers will find visuals and camera techniques they’ve never seen before, which is a refreshing change to most of the dreck that’s been in theatres to start off 2011.  In addition the score, pace and acting (with an all star cast like this would you really expect any less?)  were all right on the money, sucking you into Eddie’s world.
So what were these glaring mistakes that had me so upset and frustrated that I wanted to chuck my drink at the screen.  Well there are a few.  The voice over is an essential part of this film and if it was removed altogether the film wouldn’t have nearly the same effect.  With that said at times it was clunky and unnecessary and altogether could have easily been chopped without effecting the progression of the story at all. 
In addition to some strange voice overs the director, or the screenwriter I’m still not exactly sure who’s guilty, took certain liberties and got greedy (let’s just say the most obvious of these has Abbie Cornish running with karate chop hands like she’s the six million dollar man, before she ultimately wields a child as a weapon).  When dealing with science fiction directors must always keep in mind one thing; “suspension of disbelief”.  You must always delay the movie goer from that pivotal moment where they decide whether or not something is so ridiculous that they no longer invest mentally in a movie.  When done right the decision is delayed all the way up until the end of a movie. 
Now although the problems I had with Limitless aren’t necessary unbelievable, they definitely are illogical (I mean a child as a weapon? really?).  With that said the entire first act of the film is spotless and tight winding through twists and turns with panache and for that I give director Neil Burger kudos.  All I’m saying is that next time you want to make a good movie great, reign it in a bit and don’t let the adrenal gland take over your brain.

Sucker Punch
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
I really wanted to like Sucker Punch.  In fact I had a whole bunch of pride on the line since my girlfriend and I had gotten in an argument from the very first trailer.  I thought it looked like an interesting action packed ride with astounding visuals and an awesome soundtrack.  She thought it looked like a bunch of girls being exploited for the sake of film, all to pander to fanboys with titillation, explosions and every ridiculous piece of “awesomeness” a prepubescent boy could ever dream of (You mean I can have giant samurai, Nazi zombies, and android hitmen!?).  Which one of us would come out as the victor of our little spat, who knew?  Well as it turns out we were both right…

After viewing the movie I tried to let it seep in.  I read reviews, which by and large razed the film to the ground like some defunct Vegas Casino.  I also read an interview with the director explaining what he was going for, in addition to some funny posts from the virtual worlds trolls all trying to defend what in the end is a horribly beautiful mess.  I tried to gather as many opinions and valid or invalid points before I decided to sit down and write my review, and I have to say this film is not easy to categorize.
I’ll start with the good.  As always Snyder pulls out all the stops and nearly puts the viewers into a catatonic state of grandeur with epic battle sequences and visuals that are so amazing you literally try not to blink.  In addition the film is set to a soundtrack filled with covers of rock ‘n’ roll songs that fit the scenes so well you can’t help but be sucked into Sucker Punch‘s world.
Now the bad.  The acting was so wooden and stale (with the exception of Abbie Cornish) that it lands somewhere between pinocchio and that bag of chips you find in the cupboard that fell behind everything two years ago.  I had my worries about the cast from the get go since Snyder enlisted everyone’s help from Disney to the Real World (although I will credit Vanessa Hudgens for looking the most natural during the fight scenes). 
In addition a coherent storyline was nowhere to be found, as I ended the movie wondering, ok so was she in a…or was it really her that…wtf did I just watch?  The women are scantily clad which seems like a completely unnecessary part of the film except for the fact that they throw in a brothel angle, which comes off as a half cocked excuse to flash upskirts during somersaults.  In addition the movie cuts so rigidly from “reality” to fantasy I felt like I was watching Mario Batali butcher a chicken carcass with a chainsaw.  Perhaps this was on purpose?  Some say yes, others say no but we’ll get to that in a minute.

By the end of it all I felt that I had just watched a horribly awesome movie.  I couldn’t decide if I was enraged or enthralled, disgusted or disguising the fact that at times I was like a kid in a candy store.  That’s when I went to my fellow critics to get their view on things.

What I got was usually either unreasonably negative or some jack ass just trying to be a contrarian listing nonsense as his defense points.  Obviously there was the feminist angle who viewed Sucker Punch as nothing more than an encapsulated wet dream/adrenaline boost mash up.  Some critics even tried to pass off a reverse sexism angle, stating that the only male characters in the movie were sleazy and perverted.  Uh ya because that’s the world the girls are in?  It’s a film! It’s not reality.  In fact Snyder even takes the time to make this a point by opening on a red curtain, letting the audience know “This is a show”.  That would be like someone saying there’s reverse racism in Schindler’s List because all the Nazi’s are white.
I filtered and filtered until I finally came to a decision.  My girlfriend and I were both right.  Sucker Punch is both visually stimulating and sexistly titillating.  The film juxtaposes the harsh “reality” the girls live in, with these awesome “fantasy” scenes of sexed up trollops kicking ass and taking names.  Essentially what I believe Snyder is trying to do (and what he’s claimed he’s trying to do although I’m not sure how well he nailed it) is give us a subversive film that turns into a mirror at the midpoint and shines a light on the society we live in.
By showing these women in sexy clothes taking back control of the heroine archetype, while still looking sexy, Snyder is attempting to say “Why not?  Why can’t a girl be really sexy and still badass?  Why should she have to fight in camo hammer pants and combat boots so you’ll take her seriously.  I bet if a girl wielding a three foot kitana wearing Christain Louboutin pumps approached you on the street you’d be equally aroused and petrified.”
I think that liking Sucker Punch depends on how much of an artist’s bullshit you’re willing to believe (since in my humble opinion all high concept art involves a certain amount of bullshitery).  Is Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ high art because he says it is?  Or is it just a sacrilegious sham made by dunking a crucifix in a jar of urine and back lighting it?
Whether Sucker Punch is a subversive masterpiece or a multi hour mindless suck fest, I’ll leave up to the viewer since I’m pretty sure it’s both.  What I can say for sure is that Sucker Punch is a bold exploration into what film could be, and for critics to label the film as mindless I think is unfair. Especially when Michael Bay is allowed to blow stuff up nonsensically and Katherine Heigl can search for Mr. Right in all the wrong places ad nauseum, all while still receiving better reviews than a film that tried it’s damnedest to give us something different.
In the end it’s all about how much you buy into the bullshit and how truly heady you want to get.

Source Code
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
Jake Gyllenhaal as been on my “hmm…I dunno” list since Bubble Boy.  I mean the guy is more hit or miss than Nick Cage (who, let me remind those of you who are scoffing right now, won an Oscar at one point in his career).  The Day After Tomorrow was atrocious, Jarhead was mediocre at best (through now fault of Gyllenhaal’s however), and I won’t even go into Love and Other Drugs.  Which may have explained my trepidation when it came to Source Code.
One positive factor from the get go was that Source Code found Gyllenhaal returning to the genre that, for all intents and purposes launched his career; Time bending Sci-fi.  Sure Gyllenhaal had October Sky, but it was the cult classic Donnie Darko that propelled him into the limelight.  Source Code promised to deliver on all the same points and I was actually excited to see if the film could deliver.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did.  The film has everything a moviegoer could possibly want; action, drama, even a little bit of romance.  Source Code is that same time bending sci-fi thriller that’s right in Gyllenhaal’s wheel house. 
Source Code tells the story of Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a helicopter pilot poached from the military by a secret government operation known as source code.  The project, headed by Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and source code inventor Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), allows Stevens to relive the past via a computer program that links his brain waves to that of a deceased train passenger, tragically killed in a terrorist bombing.  As it’s put in the movie “It’s not time travel, it’s time reassignment”.
Stevens relives the past in 8 minute spurts, in hopes of finding out the identity of the bomber in order to prevent a future attack on the city of downtown Chicago.  However priorities switch for Stevens when he meets a beautiful woman on the train named Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) and decides that he is going to save her from a death that is already cemented in the past.
Before you get all up in arms about how ludicrous the plot line may be let me just say that Source Code plays with a delicate balance between plot, and story, and yes there is a difference.  Plot dictates the world the characters live in and how their actions effect the direction in which the story moves. 
The plot deals with some very complex ideas including quantum physics, multiple realities, and even extreme leaps in neuroscience, but overall at the end of the film it hardly matters because you are so engrossed with the characters and their journey.  By the end of the movie viewers are left satisfied with the story, leaving the plot to be discussed as a separate matter.
Being a huge sci fi fan and believer in the unknown I don’t find the plot of Source Code to be that far fetched anyways.  It takes studied theories in quantum physics (which let’s be honest is pretty much a science made up almost completely of theory) and combines it with a plausible scientific process involving neuroscience and opens the door for discussion on both.
But for all those who are avoiding this film because they think it will be a heady mess, do yourself a favor and give it a chance.  What you’ll end up with is an engrossing film that is visually beautiful, solidly acted (especially the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Monaghan), and just as thrilling as it promises.  Source Code is the first great film of 2011.