April 3, 2011
Review - " Source Code " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhall, Michelle Monaghan, Vera
Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright.
A helicopter pilot recruited for a top-secret military
operation finds himself on a startlingly different kind of
mission in Source Code, a smart, fast-paced action thriller
that challenges our assumptions about time and space.
Filled with mind-boggling twists and heart-pounding
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens on a
speeding commuter train with no idea how he got there.
Seated across from him is Christina (Michelle Monaghan),
a woman he doesn’t know, but who clearly believes she
knows him. Seeking refuge in the bathroom, he’s shocked
to see another man’s reflection in the mirror and ID cards
in his wallet belonging to schoolteacher Sean Fentress.
Suddenly a massive explosion rips through the train.
Almost instantly, Colter is transported to a high-tech
isolation unit where a uniformed woman named Goodwin
(Vera Farmiga) demands to know everything he saw.
Colter has been on a high-priority mission to identify a
bomber who destroyed a train just hours earlier and who
plans to kill thousands more with a much larger explosion
in the heart of Chicago. A top-secret program,
codenamed Source Code, allows Colter to exist briefly as
Sean in the parallel reality of the doomed commuter train.
Each time he returns to the train, Colter has just eight
minutes to uncover the bomber’s identity. He gathers new
bits of evidence each time, but his quarry eludes him. The
more he learns, the more convinced he becomes that he
can prevent the deadly blast from ever happening -
unless time runs out first.
Well-made sci-fi films are a rarity these days, and I’ve watched many in my lifetime. “Source Code” is that rare gem that
stimulates the mind, but treats the genre in a simple, intriguing way.
The opening is shrouded in mystery as Air Force Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train, not knowing
who he is or why he’s there in the first place. Even more mind bending is the fact that Stevens is reliving a tragic event,
through the consciousness of a different person. He experiences flashbacks of a life not his own, but as the life of Sean
Fentress, a passenger who was killed in an explosion aboard that train he is on. Furthermore, Stevens wakes up yet again,
finding himself suddenly strapped into a capsule, which enables him to travel through time ~ 8 minutes before the explosion
to be exact. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, there is a tidy explanation on quantum mechanics recited by Dr. Rutledge
(Jeffrey Wright), who suavely banters about the inner workings of time travel. The concept of the story brings me to an
interesting point — this film feels more complex than it actually is.
The cinematic world is already filled with sci-fi flicks with confusing plot lines and dazzling effects, but where “Source Code”
differs is in its down to Earth approach. It doesn’t waste time with scientific mumbo jumbo, but instead plays out on an
From the beginning, I became enveloped by Captain Stevens’s world of confusion. Each time Gyllenhaal’s character woke
from his 8-minute nightmare to learn that the passengers aboard the commuter train had all died after an explosion, his
situation became more poignant. He also learns of his mission governed by military scientist Colleen Goodwin (Vera
Farmiga) to track down a cold hearted terrorist. Guided by Goodwin, Stevens must return to the agonizing moment several
times to pick up more clues. His many trips to the other life weighs heavily on Stevens, for which he witnesses those deaths
time and again.
Trapped like a lab rat, his life inside the hidden capsule also starts to take its toll. Similar to a soldier going off to war and
watches his fellow soldiers die in battle, Colter experiences something like post traumatic stress syndrome. It’s those kinds of
human connections that allow this film to translate to into the real world. Just the very idea of knowing that lives are being
stripped away senselessly creates a heart breaking atmosphere.
Amid the catastrophe, however, a romance stokes up between Stevens and a young woman he met on the train named
Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). This moment makes for a nice break in all the grimness.
Jake Gyllenhaal receives kudos from me for
his portrayal of the Air Force Captain. I liked
his gritty, stressed reactions to the dire
situation placed on him. I also give great credit
to the entire cast, who all played integral rolls,
which made this movie believable.
Thanks to director Duncan Jones (“Moon”)
and writer Ben Ripley (“Species 3”) for packing
this little thriller with a nice balance of laughter,
poignancy and tenseness…and even romance
to break up the somber tone. I simply enjoyed
every minute of it, and I think these types of
movies could help revitalize the science fiction
”Source Code” is definitely worth while and a