Original release: April 1st, 2011
Running time: 93 minutes
Director: Duncan Jones
Writer: Ben Ripley
Cast:Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Source Code is an evocative, poignant and not least entertaining examination of the mind-over-matter enigma. Though not comparable, Duncan Jones’ film may just spark off the kind of disputes and theories we saw popping up in the wake of The Matrix (1999). Preventing a heinous terror attack is not much more than the anchor of a story that reaches far beyond the actual plot, and is dealt with rather parenthetically.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a commuter train, not knowing how he got there and who the woman (Michelle Monaghan) on the opposite seat is. Her name is Christina, she calls him Sean and talks to him as if she knows him. Confused and perplexed, Stevens escapes to the men’s room – only to see the reflection of a stranger in the mirror.
But before he can do anything, the train blows up and Stevens finds himself (literally) inside a dark and tight room, apparently a military facility. There he learns he’s part of a top-secret government experiment, the Source Code, and that he is supposed to find the train’s bomber.
Quite soon the decorated soldier realises he doesn’t really have a choice but to go back in time and re-live the last 8 minutes in the life of his “host”, until he solves the case, thereby preventing an imminent large-scale attack on downtown Chicago.
At its core Source Code is a tale about time travel and parallel realities, but also a romance and an sometimes extremely fast-paced thriller that creates suspense in unique and inventive ways. The film makes the vegetating science fiction genre shine again — by not overdoing the science part and focusing on the fiction with its own nuts and bolts.
Eight minutes at a time, Stevens unravels the mystery of the task at hand, and his own. Gyllenhaal’s performance is somewhat like the grown-up version of Donnie Darko (2001) — inquisitive, doubting, not taking anything as it is or seems to be. His army boss, Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), is his determined, and rather maternal opposite who grows fond of the guinea pig in the high tech container. This may be one reason why Colter Stevens eventually doesn’t care much about the scientific possibilities and limits of the card he’s been dealt. He finds and follows his own mission, which also involves his father, and saving Christina.
Director Duncan Jones (Moon, 2009), writer Ben Ripley and not least Gyllenhaal created a character who is physically and emotionally displaced, and who can’t help it but wanting to change the past. The question is, however, if he can prevent the commuter train from exploding in the first place, what happens next?
Stevens’ 8-minute loops in a soon-to-be dead man’s body are beyond repetition. There are some markers like a popping Cola can, the same faces of course, and the facts of -Stevens’ task. Apart from that, every loop develops its own story. The changes are more than just subtle, and each time they mean something else — to Stevens and to the plot. Source Code plays with nuances like knots in a thread that can lead anywhere, making the plot anything but predictable.
The film doesn’t really explain how all the time-bending stunts are possible. Sci-fi fans and people who are into time travel and consciousness certainly have the edge over the wider audience, as much of the film’s assumptions have actually been discussed in the scientific community for years. It seems very likely though the director didn’t waste too much time with the theoretical details which is good for the story but leaves the scientifically inclined not unsatisfied.
The most remarkable and quite ingenious moment in Source Code is its ultimate twist — not only a chilling revelation but also a blistering statement on the times we live in, equally disturbing and thought-provoking. In the end, the film has a message that may be prone to conflicting interpretations – but should definitely leave you wondering what life is all about.
One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.
His passion for intricate stories and the ‘seven basic plots’ (ask him!) often times makes his friends and family put him in the doghouse for "predicting" too many twists and endings.