Sometimes you just can’t trust the contents of your own head, particularly in these loosely connected films, Repo Men and Source Code. Listen in and see if they are worth inserting into your mindtank.
I think Eric Garcia read an article about the nascent technology of synthetic organs and their potential impact on the transplant process in 2008, and I also think this was right about the same time he read an article on the origins of band names, taking particular interest in Spandau Ballet. I think this because his 2009 novel The Repossession Mambo, quite the worst title for a book I have ever encountered, was adapted for the screen in 2010 in the guise of Repo Men.
A logical, nay prophetic interpretation of the march of late stage capitalism, the increasingly, depressingly believable plot of Repo Men revolves around artificial organs being offered on easy credit (typical APR 19%), with a three month grace period on missed payments before the debt collectors knock on your door. Only these debt collectors, played by Jude Law and Forest Whitaker, are less likely to knock than they are to blow out the hinges, tasers drawn and scalpels at the ready because, in case the penny has yet to drop, repossessing a liver is an intrinsically more violent proposition than pulling up in a Fiat Ducato and chucking a dishwasher in the back. Not that Union company boss Liev Schreiber cares too much about your problems; the commission on sales is pretty good, and you know you ought to sign because, well, you owe it to your young family not to die of lung cancer.
All is well in the amoral world of organ reclamation until a seemingly chance encounter with a dodgy defibrillator sees Jude Law’s Remy launched arse over tit into a coma, awaking to find himself the recipient of a shiny new Union heart. In case you hadn’t guessed, your heart may be at risk if you do not keep up repayments on your heart, a fact not lost on Remy or, indeed, Whitaker’s Jake who, in time honoured fashion of the classic jobsworth, is willing to set aside a couple of decades of friendship to tow the company line and pursue his former colleague when he can’t keep pace with his payments.
Into the mix goes Alice Braga as sultry nightclub singer Beth, on the down and out due to her status as a multi-organ recipient, and who teams up with Remy in an attempt to remove themselves from the Union’s credit records.
The influences upon which Repo Men draws are pretty evident, though for the most part think Blade Runner meets Minority Report on a bit of a tight budget, and with a penchant for a bit more of the old claret than is probably strictly necessary. It’s not a subtle film, it’s thematic content writ fairly large, chiefly in blood on the wall, but I do have a soft spot for films as unsophisticated as this when it comes to tackling the glaringly obvious, increasingly large elephant in the ever-shrinking room, namely that as a species our bizarre propensity for pandering to corporate entities in their pursuit of arbitrary levels of fiscal advancement through the entirely imaginary construct of capital has left us totally fucked, that we have for some time known that we were going to get totally fucked, and yet we have equally bizarrely and collectively assuaged ourselves of the anguish of being totally fucked by avoiding any of the woefully apparent mechanisms by which we may at any time over the last hundred years or so chosen to leverage in order to immediately un-fuck ourselves.
On Sunday the 25th of April in 2010 episode 61 of theOneliner.com’s podcast was published, extolling the relative merits of this movie in the face of overwhelming critical drubbing. While I may be slightly less inclined to sing the praises of Repo Men today than I was eleven and a bit years ago, I still found myself enjoying it well enough, even if it does need to shed a good twenty to thirty minutes or so depending on the version you watch. Jude Law remains, as Drew pointed out at the time, an unexpectedly engaging nominal protagonist, Whitaker is as dependable as ever, and Schreiber is brilliantly shit, if you get what I mean. Braga doesn’t get much to do, but then she is a woman and this is an action movie from 2010 so, y’know.
This was director Miguel Sapochnik’s debut effort, and all things considered it isn’t too terrible, certainly not terrible enough to suggest that he ought to have spent quite so much time in the doldrums. As luck would have it he’s back on screens this month with Apple Plus’ “Tom Hanks plus a robot” affair Finch, which has also had middling reviews at best, but which I’ll no doubt check out anyway given that I remained comparatively entertained by Repo Men. Not one for the weak of stomach, on which note can I interest you in this stomach? Just 144 easy payments of $4,340.28.
It’s always a little disorientating, waking up on a train, but particularly so if you wake up in a different country. And month. And body. Such is the case for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Captain Colter Stevens, whose last memory was flying a mission over Afghanistan. He now appears to be inhabiting the body of a teacher, Sean Fentress on a routine Chicago commute, talking with a prospective love interest, Michelle Monaghan’s Christina Warren, but before he can get his bearings, the train blows up.
It’s always a little disorientating, waking up in a cockpit after being blown up on a train in a different country and month and body, etc, etc. This time a suitably confused and agitated Stevens is talked down by Vera Farmiga’s Captain Colleen Goodwin, whose briefing tells him that he’s in a strange, continually vaguely defined experimental technology called the Source Code, which is basically inserting him into the last eight minutes of Sean Fentress’ life. Whoever is behind that bombing is believed to have been on the train, and has an even greater threat in the planning.
So, Goodwin and the project’s truculent creator, Jeffrey Wright’s Dr. Rutledge send Stevens back into the time loop, again and again, not to stop the train exploding, but to identify the terrorist and report back. You see, even though it seems very much like an alternate timeline is being created every time Stevens is cycled through the Source Code, it isn’t because, well, because Rutledge says so. So there. Stevens doesn’t quite believe him, perhaps motivated by finding out what really happened on his last mission in Afghanistan, and not wanting that state of affairs to continue.
I liked this a lot a decade ago, and it stands up pretty well today in terms of being a fun ride. Director Duncan Jones keeps things moving along at enough of a breakneck clip that you won’t be stopping to think about it too hard, which is pretty much key to enjoying the endeavour. It’s helped along by a strong turn from Gyllenhaal, who proves a sympathetic lead as he’s pulled from pillar to post and back again at aforementioned breakneck speed, and bounces well off Farmiga, Wright and the somewhat underserved Michelle Monaghan.
I’m not completely sure repeat viewing is Source Code‘s friend – there’s such an entirely understandable woolliness to all of the time travel shenanigans that simply can’t be defined, either in relation to our quotidian reality, or to the film’s own internal logic, or that would stop the film’s happy ending from happening. Which is something I can give a pass to when viewing this as a fun, vaguely sci-fi flavoured thriller, but if you prefer your science fiction more on the science than fiction side this will very much not be your jam.
It’s a touch sad that Duncan Jones’ first feature, Moon, remains his best by a decent margin, but Source Code is by no means the disgrace to his name that Mute was, and I hold out some hope for his involvement in the hopefully still upcoming 2000AD adaptations. Indeed, Source Code makes for an entertaining morsel to hold you over until that arrives.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed today, please hit us up on Twitter (@fudsonfilm), on Facebook (facebook.com/fudsonfilm), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to receive our podcast on a regular basis, please add our feed to your podcasting software of choice, or subscribe on iTunes. If you could see your way clear to leaving a review on iTunes, we’d be eternally grateful, but we won’t blame you if you don’t. We’ll be back with you soon with something fresh, but until then, take care of yourself, and each other.