Source Code (2011)

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.

[There were some very nice moments and movements captured that reminded the viewer that there is a cinematographer and director.]

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.

Wiki link  IMDb link

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

10 thoughts on “Source Code (2011)

  1. I went and saw this with friends when it first came out. I’m a fan of Gyllenhaal and Monaghan (have you seen her and RDJ in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? Brilliant!) and was sold on the director after seeing Moon (which, as you’ve been told, is a Must See).

    I loved the optimism and romance of the film. Given the choice I will always opt for romance in my SFF, be it book, film or television series. I’m not one that needs the science to be believable. Give me characters I can relate to (or at the very least engage with) and some connection and/or romance and I’m a happy camper.

    Source Code is certainly one of the more enjoyable films I’ve seen this year. It doesn’t have the genre-defining impact of Moon and it isn’t an “important” film in any way. It doesn’t beg for multiple viewings like Inception. But in the end it is a fun offering by a writer/director who I hope we see more from in the (near) future.

    1. I did like the lighter tones it took, despite the gravity of the situation involved. and I liked that it wasn’t as dark as Deja Vu (2006, Denzel Washington) was, which is a film I couldn’t help thinking about when watching Source Code.

      Just saw another fun Sci-Fi that is heavy on the romance and optimism. The Adjustment Bureau (very obviously based on a Philip K. Dick story). will be reviewing that one soon.

      1. Can’t wait to read it. I’ve been very, very negligent in my movie reviews this year and Adjustment Bureau was a film that I enjoyed a great deal more than I thought I would. Looking forward to seeing if you liked or loathed it (or somewhere in between…I assume closer to ‘like’ since you called the film “fun”) and discussing it.

  2. Aye, like Carl said, and Sean and Kevin, Moon is fantastic. Sam Rockwell is brilliant in the film, and I really enjoyed it a lot.

    I’ve yet to see Source Code, but I’m sure I will relatively soon. Sounds like the perfect film for the now bed-rested wife and I.

    1. hope you both enjoy the film. i especially hope keisha will enjoy a healthy and comfortable rest of her pregnancy.

  3. ‘Moon’ is phenomenal — minimalistic, low-budget, well-acted (Sam Rockwell), top-notch in every regard… sci-fi at its best. I’m glad that Duncan Jones was able to make the transition from Indie filmmaking to big-budget (Source Code) with relatively few hitches — yes, the film isn’t flawless or a masterpiece but still worthwhile…

    A wonderful, detailed, and well-thought out review! Thanks!

  4. thank you for your comments. you bring up an important consideration with the film, in that it is a transition from the small-budget indie to big-budget studio film. i did appreciate that while some of the dialog was cheesy, the effects were well-done and not too over-the-top. he was able cast really fine actors, ones that command a reasonable penny. I am excited to see what he will come up with once he fully gains his stride in the big-budget studio film. I am curious if he will alternate back and forth.

  5. Thanks for this review – I’ve been meaning to look into Source Code. I LOVE me some Jake Gyllenhaal! I didn’t realize this was a film from the fellow who made Moon – I really liked that one. I hope you will watch it soon! This one sounds fun. I’ll look for your Adjustment Bureau review – that’s another one that I’m curious about but hadn’t decided if I wanted to see yet.

  6. I love Jake Gyllenhaal too and have been worried about him actually (Prince of Persia, Love and Other Drugs??)…

  7. Great review; you put this one on my list for future viewing. I do not watch too many movies these days; my mind does not seem to wan to stay engaged longer than 20-30 minutes chunks at a time. :/ Not only that, time is limited. I have a book to read list, I should really make one for movies. Hmm…think I might have said that once before.

    Anyway, while I can read all sorts of horrid stuff (no horror though) and bloody action, I cannot watch it. I also do not gravitate towards action flicks on the whole. The way you describe this movie however has me thinking that the cheesy lines/ romantic comedy bent softens the action of the movie which could work for me. Actually, you said it perfectly with …. “Not that I mind the sweet over the grit, especially these days. ” that is were I am at these days for movies – sweet over grit.

    OK… I just made my movie list; Source Code is the first listed.

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