Notable Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffery Wright
Review: Source Code proves Duncan Jones is a shining beacon of hope for science fiction fans abroad. Not only that, but it also shows Jones is not the one-trick pony some were afraid he’d turn out to be after the surprising success of his directorial debut Moon. Not only both those, but Jones made Jake Gyllenhaal’s career relevant again! Zing! Source Code was teeming with creativity thanks to Ben Ripley’s screenplay, and with Jones’ direction Source Code became a bona fide hit. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to see the next twist or turn Source Code was going to steer me into. The story is nothing short of mesmerizing, and as I said, Gyllenhaal does an excellent job playing the frantically confused hero Colter Stevens. Here you go Hollywood, yet another example of what a phenomenal original screen play can accomplish. Too bad for every Source Code, about ten more sci-fi remakes are green lit. Total Recall? When Worlds Collide? Logan’s Run? I’ll be looking forward to Duncan Jones’ next film tenfold more than any of these reworked titles, I can promise you that.
American soldier Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) awakens on a train, with no memory dating back from the present. There is a woman talking to him, but he’s confused and delusional. While trying to gain his bearings, Colter catches a glimpse of himself in the window, except it isn’t him. Upon further investigation in the bathroom mirror, Colter realizes that he has somehow taken the body of someone else. But at that moment, a bomb goes off blowing up his train as well as a passing train, but Colter doesn’t die. He wakes up in a dark, enclosed capsule, with only the face of military officer Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga) on a screen trying to get information out of him. After some resistance, Stevens finally hears the truth about his situation: he’s part of an experimental process that can put him in a given situation that has already happened for only 8 minutes, with hopes that the soldier can eventually gain enough information to stop further disasters. In this case, the train Colter is put on had a bomb located somewhere on it, and his mission is to find it and the person that detonated the explosive. But it isn’t time travel Colter is dealing with, just a reenactment of sorts, so there is no possible way of stopping what has already happened. The passengers, including the woman who he learns is named Christina (Monaghan), are gone forever, so playing hero is useless. After somehow processing all that, Colter has no choice but to repeat the same 8 minutes over and over again until the mad bomber can be picked out. Sound complicated? You bet your ass it is.
A mindless film Source Code is anything but. Be ready to have your brain toyed with and stimulated at the same time. Source Code not only answers questions as the story progresses, but beckons to have you answer questions yourself. It isn’t satisfied with just one big twist, but instead pushing plot point after plot point even further into the science fiction abyss. And that’s what I loved about it. The film could have stopped a few different times, just giving in to a decent enough story and wrapping it up. But thanks to Ben Ripley’s script, Source Code expands up a crazy realistic type of time travel not even out of the question, and is able to incorporate questions of morality and life altering choices. It gives rich substance to what could have been a dull genre piece, and is even able to deliver an ending not easily seen from the start. Source Code is relentless on the mind, in the sense that it will never let your brain rest until that very first credit rolls.
One of those credits is main character Colton Stevens, the true focus of the film. I believe going into Source Code with a completely blank mind is the best possible way to experience it, so I won’t give major points away. Finding any detail out will deflate the substance, I promise. But as I was saying, bravo to Jake Gyllenhaal for taking over and commanding the screen. Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan split screen time enough that both become more of a supporting player instead of a solid female supporting lead, and the train goers basically get one minute to shine each and nothing more. Gyllenhaal is the obvious focus, and too a degree has to give a performance in the same style as Sam Rockwell in Jones’ first film Moon. Rockwell was the only character in Moon, making his performance the make or break piece. In Source Code, Gyllenhaal has multiple scenes locked in a chamber with nothing to react off of except a screen displaying Farmiga’s face, much like Rockwell. Gyllenhall does a fantastic job of generating emotion in the character in these moments, and mirrors very human characteristics for effect. Again, not to the degree of Rockwell’s solo performance because Jake had all the scenes on the train where he bounced off other characters, but those scenes where Gyllenhaal was alone were some of the most important scenes, being the pivotal moments where Colter Stevens is informed slowly about the strange situation. Not since Brokeback Mountain has Gyllenhaal delivered such a satisfying performance on-screen.
I’d like to say I’m surprised by Source Code’s success, but I had full faith in this project just because of Duncan Jones. I was fully on board with Jones after Moon, and my only fear was that his follow-up would be lackluster. He displayed such a pension for dramatics and was able to elicit such a killer performance by Sam Rockwell alone, I couldn’t help but believe in him though. But for all you doubters, here’s your proof. Jones again brings out the dramatic science fiction attitude while getting another leading actor to give us a well-rounded performance. Props have to be given to writer Ben Ripley though, as I’ve been doing, because it was his script that gave Jones the opportunity to pull all this together. The only question is, where does Duncan Jones go from here? Only farther up, I hope.
Final Rating: 8 re-livable minutes out of 10