Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes conscious on a commuter train, in someone else’s body. 8 minutes later, after the train explodes, he wakes in a pod, in flight gear, harnessed into his seat. There is a screen and a woman in uniform working hard to orient him, reset him. What follows is the mystery of who Colter is and how he got into the pod and this other man’s body for 8 minute intervals. What also follows is a race against time as Colter also has to figure out who planted and detonated the bomb on the commuter killing everyone on board before the bomber carries through on his/her threat to detonate a dirty bomb in downtown Chicago. What follows is an exploration of time travel and physics and of its limits and possibilities. What follows is a sweet romance between Colter (as Sean Fentress) and the girl he sits across from on his daily commutes, Christina (Michelle Monaghan). What follows is a coming to terms with sacrifice, honor, and the need for reconciliation. Yeah, there is a lot going on in Source Code and Duncan Jones keeps a fair balance of it; though I believe most of the credit goes to the actors.
The opening of Source Code was lengthy, only made longer by the score. The flying birds-eye shots, the cutting with some rapidity, and an energetic score, I suppose the film is looking to finesse an increased anxiety in its viewers before Jake Gyllenhaal’s character wakes disoriented in the commuter train. The lens racing over cityscapes, grids, interesting patterns of pathways, also establishes a sense of circuitry, connection, meandering, and diverging/converging paths. The opening makes for a long establishing sequence, I wonder if it would be as effective shorter. As soon as the actors are engaged, the film picks up, the music blends, and the audience is settled into action film, drama, and romantic comedy.
Considering how the story necessitates the inclusion of dramatic elements amidst the more action or mystery oriented portions, the director did a fine job. I just wish the cheesy lines had been taken into similar consideration. There were moments it seemed Gyllenhaal’s embarrassment was palpable.
Still, we are all relieved to know that Jake Gyllenhaal was wonderful. Michelle Monaghan as Christina was suitably cute; effervescent is the word that comes to mind. Vera Farmiga fans will be very pleased with her performance as Colleen Goodwin. She was absolutely brilliant. She and Jake command so much of the screen that they necessitate perfect mobility of their facial features—if you have some strange allergy to big blue eyes, bring your epi-pen. While the film is working along a timeline, it is the actors who create the forward momentum, as well as the emotional weight–which is vital to the implications explored in the film: where are lines drawn when possessing another’s identity, who is worth more, what would you do with your few remaining minutes, ego vs. heroism, who or what action is relevant… If you haven’t a care for any of these actors (to include [a great performance by] Jeffrey Wright) you will be set against one the most appealing qualities of this film.
I went to the dollar cinema with the husband Sean and our longtime friend Kevin. Kevin and I thought Duncan Jones’ film was entirely too optimistic, and unfortunately romantic. Not that I mind the sweet over the grit, especially these days. The film is PG-13 because it is that accessible and friendly—well except when one considers the horror of detonating a commuter train full of people over and over again; the gun shot; and the occasional shocking sound effect. It has just the right amount of intellectual engagement: the puzzling out, the considerable implications, a few multisyllabic words. Source Code should be a nice bit of sci-fi for the whole family, and is somewhat conscious of its predecessors, namely Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). The audience is bound to be less confused (despite the mysteries to unfold), and lighter-hearted. Prepare to have your hand held; the film was thoughtful enough to plant clues which some may take as questions and run with it. But, in the end, Source Code is just an entertaining film that is better left as a shrug, a nice afternoon romp, where we can be assured we are left in safe hands. The government and its scientists might be nefarious, but the soldiers are still the hero, willing to do the right thing, even when ordered otherwise–and love conquers all.
Note: I’ve yet to see Duncan Jones’ first feature length film Moon (2009), but Sean and Kevin swear by it, citing it as phenomenal, and thus highly recommending it. I believe the two expected a bit more out of Source Code, but are still optimistic of Jones’ work, looking forward to a little more maturity/experience as his career progresses.
Source Code (2011)
Directed by Duncan Jones
Written by Ben Ripley
Editing by Paul Hirsch
Cinematography Don Burgess
Music by Chris P. Bacon
Produced by Mark Gordon, Jordan Wynn, Philippe Rousselet
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Running Time 93 minutes.