Written by OBS Staff Member Rose
Sci-fi thriller Source Code, directed by Duncan Zowie Jones (yup, David Bowie’s son and director of Moon (2009)), is an interesting film in that it takes an already used concept seen in the films Groundhog Day (1993,) reliving the same day over and over, The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007) reliving one’s life over and over, and primarily Déjà Vu (2006) with actor Denzel Washington who goes back in time 4 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes, 45 seconds, 14.5 nanoseconds to save a woman from being murdered. The difference in Source Code is the time allotted to relive events is available through the last 8 minutes of the life on someone on the train, explained away by quantum psychics and I believe loosely based on Schrödinger’s Cat Thought Experiment. When I say loosely, I mean very.
A train bound for downtown Chicago is making it’s merry way along the track when Captain Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) suddenly awakes on the train. It wasn’t naptime for him, as he is truly confused, disoriented and has no idea where he is. Nor does he know the woman sitting across from him Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who blabbing away about her future. With a flash of a reflection on the train window and within the bathroom when he stares in the mirror, it’s apparent he is not himself; his appearance in the mirror it that of someone else entirely.
Before he can get his bearings the entire train turns into a barbeque pit on the 4th of July, engulfed in flames and explodes into oblivion. Stevens wakes again only to find out he is part of a program developed by the government in which he is being used as an important tool to find out who is the bomber of this train. He only has 8 minutes to figure this out via the conduit of Sean Fentress, the man on the train whose body he inhabits.
The premise is each person contains a short-term memory shadow even after death that can be tapped into and expanded upon. Like a warped nightmare Stevens is thrust over and over again into this ‘shadow memory’ to relive those last moments before the explosion, picking up clues in each session. Thankfully, Colter plays out wild enough scenarios to have off-train adventures, peppered are moments of humor to break up the tension, and great dialogue is had between Captain Stevens and Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), the woman behind the computer screen in his capsule who guides him on his “mission”. For most of the film she hardly moves from her computer chair, but the way Farminga articulates her lines through facial expressions and well placed pauses, you know she is hiding something very important. She conveys such emotion with just her face and was so spot on in her delivery, you wish she had more screen time. No pun intended.
Any actor could have played Captain Colter Stevens, but Gyllenhaal makes the character his own and redeems himself for his weak portrayal as the Prince of Persia. Meanwhile Monaghan shines in her repetitive performance as Christina. She is an important balance to Stevens while on the train and is an integral part of the story as a whole. It’s a far cry from her role in Mission Impossible III and Eagle Eye where she was simply a damsel in distress.
Code is not your typical turn-back-time-to-save-the-day thriller. While it could be confusing on how the Source Code even works, which was created by Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright, who played James Bonds’ U.S. Intelligence cohort in Casino Royale), the film provides a fair amount of twists to keep you on your toes, has the ever present vein of government greed at it’s very core, and causes scientific discussion how the ending comes to pass.
You will think you know how it ends, but it will surprise you. Through trial and tribulations, it becomes axiomatic on what Stevens needs to do. He can’t just find the bomber; he needs to save all the people on the train. If I said anymore I’d ruin the film, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
Rating: 9/10 Stars
Running time: 93 minutes