Duncan Jones did a wonderful job directing and co-writing the 2009 cult-hit Moon. He returns in 2011 with a cerebral revisit to the land of agoraphobia with something that is more like the Matrix than a first glance would reveal. Using one set repeatedly takes great scriptwriting and direction, television used the idea to good effect with every comedy bit from The Honeymooners to The Golden Girls, but keeping a sci-fi audience’s attention takes real Harlan Ellison/Robert Bloch/Philip K. Dick skill and Ben Ripley does a fine job with that. The advance press notes that Jake Gyllenhaal sought out Duncan Jones and in an interview with Jones conducted in Boston on March 22nd the director had praise for – and examples of – Gyllenhaal’s expert abilities…the end result is a mind-blowing experience that will stand up to repeated spins on DVD.
The other critics out there are going to dance around the plot, suffice it to say the whodunit that starts the film was easier for this writer, in the audience, to suss out than Gyllenhaal’s schizophrenic character…which seals up that potential plot hole. As helicopter pilot Army Captain Colter Stevens he’s a detective, a much cooler Ethan Hunt than Tom Cruise was in Mission Impossible, and he’s a more together Tom Anderson than Keanu Reeves in the first Matrix…more like Keanu by the time the sequel rolled around. The press release notes that Gyllenhaal’s character is ”
part of a top-secret military operation that enables him to experience the last few minutes in the life of Sean Fentress, a man who died in a commuter-train explosion.”
Parts of Fentress have to drift into Colter – beyond just the looks – but the helicopter pilot doesn’t see that (it’s more subliminal), he stays focused on the mission. Where Duncan Jones used Kevin Spacey’s voice to good effect in Moon he employs another familiar speech pattern as Gyllenhaal’s dad in Source Code…I won’t spoil it, but during our roundtable interview with Jones when I brought that up he spilled the beans anyway….ok, it’s Scott Bakula – and that ought to get film fans to the theater. This excellent piece of movie making IS a true-to-life TV turned into motion picture Quantum Leap with some Matrix thrown in for good measure. The film looks like it cost four times its budge and I can’t wait to see it a few more times.
Duncan Jones is one of the brightest new lights out there in terms of covering many of the bases and proving to have intuition plus…I truly thought his dad, David Bowie, had directed this film until I met the director in person. And Gyllenhaal is proving to be as pliable an actor as the late Heath Ledger was going from Brokeback Mountain to The Joker, making great leaps and providing great believability. This is wonderful stuff and hopefully a few sequels will follow.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.