2011 science fiction films
1. Source Code. The second film directed by Duncan Jones, Source Code, is even better than his début feature Moon in 2009. I can’t discuss what the film is really about because I don’t want to spoil it, but I will just say that the script is brilliant. Jake Gyllenhall is fantastic in the starring role, and the supporting cast are some of the best new actors of the last few years: Michelle Monaghan (from Gone Baby Gone), Vera Farmiga (From Up in the Air), and Jeffrey Wright (from Syriana). Source Code is rivalling Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as my favourite SF movie.
2. Limitless. I know a lot of people were underwhelmed by this, but I found it pretty compelling from beginning to end. The plot is about a drug that makes you super-intelligent within 30 seconds of swallowing it. I would have preferred if the pill was depicted as taking longer, maybe an hour, to take effect, to make the premise more science fiction and less magic, but still. This is the fourth feature directed by Neil Burger, his follow-up to the severely underrated The Lucky Ones. Bradley Cooper is excellent, building on the type of character he played in Alias. Preferably see this in 35mm or at least Blu-ray because of some subtleties in the cinematography.
3. Super 8. Absolutely worth seeing, J.J. Abrams’s movie is a lot of fun even though the final half-hour doesn’t quite live up to the great beginning.
4. The Adjustment Bureau. Okay, you might not classify this as science fiction considering all the talk of angels and whatnot, but it was based on a Philip K. Dick short story and in my view had more of a science fiction feel to it than religious. The thing is, to enjoy this film you have to realize that many of the lines are intended to be funny. When I saw it I was often the only person in the theatre laughing at the corporate-bureaucracy jokes.
5. Another Earth. I didn’t mind the slow pace of this film; I thought Brit Marling (who I’d never heard of before) and William Mapother (Ethan from Lost) did terrific work. The basic plot with the car accident reminded me of a few other movies, I know some people have compared it to Rabbit Hole but in reality it isn’t all that similar; I would make a closer comparison to the Argentinian film The Headless Woman and also in another way to the brilliant Finnish comedy Black Ice. There might actually be some other film or book whose plot parallels that aspect of Another Earth even more closely, but I can’t come up with it. As for the science fiction aspect of the film, it held my interest although you have to admit that astronomically the premise makes no sense at all. Anthony Lane’s capsule review in The New Yorker says “Anyone who can explain the final shot deserves a refund,” but I didn’t find it mysterious or even ambiguous. I liked the film, including the ending, and I am interesting what movies Mike Cahill makes in future.
In addition to these five, there of course are other SF films this year that I did not see (such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and also at least one, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, that I decline to describe as science fiction.