A superbly twisted thriller with a somewhat unique outlook on our future selves, Utopia was heavily propagandised by Channel 4 during Christmas and New Year with our screens constantly awash with the garish yellow nightmare normally associated with **SPOILER ALERT** Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill. Has it lived up to the hype?
In the first 5 episodes – the final one to be screened tomorrow – it has grown from an out and out murder a minute see how many ways you can make me have nightmares you complete and utter bastards to a labyrinthine plot of devilishly complicated metaphysical concepts allied to a sinisterly simplistic solution to all our coming woes. If all this seems complicated, sorry, it is a bit. But please watch it because it all makes sense when you see this shit going down. Or just read the plot here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_(TV_series)#Plot
The writing by Dennis Kelly is superb as he uses throw away popular cultural references with these entangled plotlines to keep the viewer engaged when it would be so easy to lose everyone amidst a sea of nonsense (Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J. J. Abrams on Lost I’m looking at you! And by the way whatever happened to that Abrams guy…?) and in doing so the show hurtles along at such a pace that you barely notice that an hour has gone. Even the most simplistic of lines, ‘Where is Jessica Hyde?’ takes on a menace one cannot possibly have imagined when the chillingly brutal Neil Maskell utters it to his next victim.
Which brings me to the acting. Some superb performances, not least by Maskell as ‘Arby’, Alexandra Roach as the wonderfully foul-mouthed drug dependant ‘Becky’, Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s strange-accented antihero ‘Jessica Hyde’ and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the morally conflicted heart of the story ‘Ian’. My favourite performance though must go to Adeel Akhtar for his wonderfully unhinged ‘Wilson Wilson’ so good they named him twice. A character who could so easily fall in to parody or seem like a comic book geek but has been given such a rounded performance that he is hilarious one minute, ominously vulnerable the next before becoming a terrifying presence soon after. Superb.
Utopia has certainly lived up to the hype in my opinion. Very rarely do you get such a complex drama that can also entertain the masses on British television as the budgets cannot always accomplish everything the writers set out to do.
Groundhog Day meets Speed meets Quantum Leap – this is how best to describe the fast moving, confusing and ambitious film that is Source Code. Luckily I’m a big fan of all three and so I also adore Source Code. Duncan Jones has just been announced as the director of World of Warcraft and Source Code has its UK network premiere tonight so the timing for this review is perfect.
The film is about Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who awakes on a train in Chicago. He has no idea how he got there or what he is doing there – his last memory was flying a helicopter in Afghanistan – but the passenger opposite him Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) knows him and calls him ‘Sean’. We eventually realise that Stevens is in fact in the body of teacher Sean Fentress – Quantum Leap style – in a parallel dimension and that he has to find a bomb that is on board the train – Speed style – before it blows up. However, every time it does blow up Colter awakes in a capsule as himself with only a camera link to Captain Colleen Godwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr Rutledge (Jeffery Wright) as company. We are told that he has a repeated eight minutes – Groundhog Day style – inside the ‘Source Code’ (a kind of time realignment device) to find the bomb and bomber to stop an impending attack in this world. Both worlds alter slightly on each occasion as time is running out to save the world from the catastrophe. Following? No? Tough. Watch the film. It’s a unique and intriguing movie dealing with time, space and string theory in about as simple way as possible.
At the heart of this complex film is a burgeoning love story between Colter and Christina as these two slowly evolve an eight minute relationship which takes place over an hour and a half of film time. This is where the film excels as Colter is forced to come to terms with the reality of his situation within his own world with Godwin and Rutledge as company.
Gyllenhaal is one of my favourite actors and gives a superb performance with a constantly evolving character who has to deal with so many things. Likewise, Monaghan and Farmiga give good performances in roles which are very constrained due to the nature of the film but are crucial to our perception of the worlds.
Director Duncan Jones, meanwhile, does a fantastic job of balancing the claustrophobic and paranoid elements with the requirements of an action film as there are only really three major locations throughout the movie. It runs at such a fast pace and yet manages to keep the audience involved because of the emotional investment and character driven essence of the performance. You can see elements of his previous film Moon in this as that has similar constaints of space and dealt with paranoia and claustrophobia as a main theme.
Other films you can compare Source Code to include Looper, Deja Vu and Inception as they are all thought provoking, intelligent films that you can invest in because of how the material has been handled with a loving care that blockbusters all too often fail to follow. Some people will interpret the ending in a different way to that of the writer and director (available on the DVD commentary) but that is the beauty of the film. It is not the greatest film you will ever see but I defy anyone to watch it and be bored or dissatisfied as it reaches out to you with action, love and an intelligence that encompass many different tastes.