Mind f$%k double-header

This has been an unusual weekend, since instead of watching zero movies–which is how about 99% of my weekends go–I watched two movies. Only one of these films is based upon a short story by Philip K. Dick, but the other is in the general ballpark of Philip K. Dick mind-fuckitude.

Source Code (2011)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I’m tempted to go a little higher on the rating for this one, but I don’t tend to like rating films higher than a 4 when I’ve only seen them once. That said, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. If you’re keeping track, this is the film that wasn’t based upon a Philip K. Dick story, but it’s fairly similar in a way to the Nic Cage film Next, which was an adaptation of Dick’s short story, The Golden Man.

Granted, Source Code is a much better film–though I did enjoy Next, as well–better acted, better directed, better written, and overall more engaging. But in concept, it’s really not terribly different.

In Next, the main character can see two minutes into his own future, which allows him to play out a plethora of scenarios until finding one with the highest probability of success. As a result, the government wants to use him to help track down a bomb.

In Source Code, the main character travels back through time–I’m simplifying–in order to relive the same eight minutes over and over again until he can discover the identity of a bomber. In concept, these two plots sound pretty similar, though in execution and plot, they’re not very much alike. In a way, Source Code is also kind of like an episode of Quantum Leap, if they had ever done a Groundhog Day style episode.

Basically, Source Code is kind of a mish-mash of a lot of other high concept sci-fi, but it’s a brilliant mish-mash–particularly in how it builds a convincing romance between two people who only know each other for eight minutes at a time–that works as a taut brain-bending thriller. A couple of notes about the ending:

Even though the ending is hopeful, my wife still felt a little emotionally drained by it or something. After we finished watching, she told me she had to go watch something funny.

Also, I have a quibble about the implications of the ending for one of main characters–albeit, a character we never know much about–but I can’t discuss it at all without spoiling it, and this is a film that I think shouldn’t be spoiled. So go see it, then I’ll tell you what my problem was.

That was supposed to be a one paragraph review, by the way. I guess I didn’t do too well. Let me see how I do with this next one.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

I watched this last night, and I’m still not exactly sure how to feel about it. First of all, I should say that it wasn’t the film that I imagined in my head. I knew very little about the film outside of what I saw in the 30-second television trailers, so without spoiling too much, I’ll just reveal that I had an image of this being something a little closer to The Matrix, where The Adjustment Bureau–whatever that is–was more of a malevolent body. That isn’t really the case at all.

The film is actually something like a meditation on free will and spirituality. Within the first twenty minutes or so, we more or less know what the Adjustment Bureau is, and so the rest of the film is really about how Matt Damon’s character deals with that knowledge. This movie is not an extended chase film as the poster implies–though it does contain chase sequences–but is rather a heady story about a guy who finds out that the evolution of human history is being directed at a fine-tooth level.

It’s interesting and pretty exciting, though somehow I wish it were a little more exciting. But that’s probably not fair. I might upgrade it if I ever see it again. In any event, it’s a fine film well deserving of its good reviews.

Second Opinions from Blogs I Read

  • Television Lady – actually from a review she did on another site, but it’s a helluva lot better than the quasi-review I just wrote

4 Replies to “Mind f$%k double-header”

  1. Oh yeah, these two movies. These are two of those movies that come out, I have no idea what they are, and then they went away. I had no idea either one was science fiction.

    I’ll check out the first one at least.

    1. Well, Source Code is definitely science-fiction. The Adjustment Bureau is more like…I don’t know…fantasy? I think that’s why I’m more reserved in my appreciation of it–since I consider religion to be, roundly, bullshit. They’re both good films, though, and to be sure, you don’t have to be religious to enjoy The Adjustment Bureau. Maybe it actually helps if you’re NOT religious, because you’d be less inclined to get offended about it.

  2. I was also expecting the Adjustment Bureau to be bad guys, and was glad to discover they weren’t. It would just have been exhausting to watch another Matrix-like movie. I also liked how romantic the story was.

    1. Right–I didn’t mention that, but I thought the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt was very solid and charming. In retrospect, it’s kind of odd that I wrote this review without bothering to characterize the film as a romance, which is what it is.

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