Film Review – Source Code

Source Code (M)

Directed by: Duncan Jones

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright

Three stars

Review by Julian Wright

Thank goodness for science-fiction, where anything is possible and imaginations can run rampant. Dinosaurs and humans can walk the Earth together, people can travel back in time, and space aliens can attack on July 4. The hook for this genre entry is mind travel (not to be confused with time travel) working with Nick of Time parameters, Groundhog Day sensibilities and The Adjustment Bureau romanticism.

While some scriptwriters go overboard when coming up with fantastical plot-lines, tripping over themselves with reality bending “rules” and losing sight of what makes for compelling storytelling, Source Code walks a fine line. Think about it too much and you will drive yourself crazy. But then again, props to any film that can make an audience think.

Jumping straight into the action, air force helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) jolts awake on a public train with fellow patron Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) who engages in general chit-chat with him. She seems to know him but Colter doesn’t know who she is, where he is or why he is there. After several confusing minutes, in which the face he sees in a mirror is not his own, the train explodes, everyone dies and Colter wakes up in a metallic capsule. So far, so weird.

Communicating through a small screen in the capsule, Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) explains he has been chosen for an experimental program in which someone can take over another person’s identity for the last eight minutes of their life. In this mission, in which the train bomber must be identified and caught before they set off more in Chicago, Colter must take teacher Sean Fentress’ identity. And he only has an eight minute window of time to do his job. Fortunately (or unfortunately), he is able to go back and relive those eight minutes and that explosion over and over again until the bomber is identified.

Despite serious overtones, this mind bender still knows how to have some fun with its premise and characters, which is refreshing, but the overall effect is dimmed by far too many key characters left undeveloped. It kicks off to a thrilling and intriguing start, setting up its Hitchcockian plot and despite the sci-fi elements, continues to hold its audience, until about halfway through when there are still no signs of supporting characters being elevated beyond one dimension.

Gyllenhaal is solid as the hero and pulls off the emotional weight of the situation, but he fails to click with the always charming Monaghan. While Matt Damon and Emily Blunt convinced they were destined for each other after a brief but sizzling encounter in The Adjustment Bureau, the similar set up here does not ring true. Why does Colter fall for Christina? We don’t know anything about her. We also learn very little about Goodwin and source code creator doctor Rutledge played by accomplished actor Jeffrey Wright. Watching these three capable actors being underused is a shame.

You get the feeling this film could have been more enjoyable if it was just an empty pop corn thrill ride or if the film makers had put more effort into fleshing out their characters. This version is somewhere in the middle. There is still some sci-fi fun to be had with some great special effects, white-knuckle and head scratching moments. Just don’t think about it too much.

One Response to “Film Review – Source Code”

  1. I want to see this so badly, but (if we’re honest) only because of Jakey-poo.

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