Film Reviews

SOURCE CODE

By • Apr 7th, 2011 •

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Clever and quasi-intelligent…given the fairy tale premise.

Decorated Afghanistan helicopter soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, and he’s sitting on a Chicago commuter train. He tells the woman sitting across from him Christina (Michelle Monaghan) who he is, but she laughs him off. He is her friend Sean. After trying to access what the hell is happening to him, and a few incidental moments occur, Stevens goes into the bathroom. He looks in the mirror and does not see his face but another man’s. A burst of horrific energy pulls him back into a tomb-like metal capsule. Someone is talking to him and keeps asking, “Where’s the bomb?”

The face on the screen and the voice belongs to military careerist Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and she has no time to explain the mission to Stevens. He’s to go back into the fog of time and find the bomb.

Boom, boom! He’s back on the train, sitting across from Christina. After wasting a few more minutes, he goes looking for the bomb. He again “dilly-dallies”, boom-boom, and goes right back to his downed-helicopter tomb. He demands to talk to the man in charge (Jeffrey Wright).

Through quantum dynamics silly-talk Stevens is told – in piecemeal – that he is in a super-secret military program called the “Source Code.” It is an experimental program that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. Find the bomb, then find the bomber who has a second nuclear bomb all set to go off in downtown Chicago killing millions of people.

Stevens is not given much guidance, so, keeping the existential concept of altering Fate, time-travel, and playing God at a minimum, he keeps re-entering the same 8-minute scenario, each time getting a better hang of it. The people on the train are dead already – it happened in the now-past – but Stevens has spent several minutes with Christina and he’s smitten.

He does alter the past by getting off the train with Christina. That should have collapsed the future into another possible future. Stevens could have stopped the train and saved lives, but his mission is to find out who planted the bomb and stop him.

Why not just yell “There’s a bomb on the train!” and see what happens?

Stevens is told there is nothing he can do to the change the events – the bomb will go off on the train – but he keeps tweaking his 8 minutes as Sean.

If you could go back and change one small thing, does everything else change? If Christina lives instead of dies, does she take a career path that someone else was destined for, marry someone else’s fated husband, and have children that should not have been born? Are they then people without souls?

With THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU and now SOURCE CODE, the theme is “let’s correct our past screw-ups with technology” right after we all get superpowers.

SOURCE CODE is as intelligent as it could be under the limitations of reality. It is a terrific second feature by MOON director Duncan Jones. Clearly, Jones is working in the same emotional texture as exhibited by MOON and he is the perfect director for SOURCE CODE. The similarities to MOON are its confinement, isolation of main character, desperation, and the sci-fi implications. Jones shows a skilled, strong hand directing Gyllenhaal and bringing a thrilling, challenging concept to the screen.

Monaghan is wasted as an angelic presence just repeating the same scene over and over. Farmiga was hired for her noble blank stare.

And how will SOURCE CODE twist itself out of its event-conundrum? Cleverly and without cheating the audience. I like Jones’ sentiment and with MOON and SOURCE CODE he shows a keen interest in philosophical, intelligent themes that are worth exploring.

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One Response »

  1. The idea of a man existing within the body of another, using ‘quantum’ physics, is not a new one, especially the idea of our actor looking in a mirror and seeing the reflection of the person he now inhabits. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the voice of Gyllenhaal’s character’s father was provided by Scott Bakula…

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