By Gary Murray
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monahan and Vera Farmiga
Written by Ben Ripley
Directed by Duncan Jones
Running time 93 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating: FULL PRICE
Some movies are just for entertainment. They are popcorn flicks, films that are just a fun little ride and not something that stays within the deep confines of the mind. Some movies make you think, with strong layered meaning. They are the type of film that makes one question the true definition of what constitutes life. When a movie does both, it is a rarity. Source Code is just that kind of film.
The film opens with Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). He’s a young military man but he is on a Chicago commuter train. Before he can figure out what is going on, the train explodes. Then he finds himself in a black box, talking to a superior Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). The only thing that Colter remembers is that he was in combat with his fellow soldiers. With every question he asks, he gets rebuffed. Goodwin keeps pushing him to remember any detail about the explosion on the train.
He is sent back to the train. Sitting across from Colter is Christina (Michelle Monaghan) a fellow passenger. She laughs at him telling him that he is not Colter. Colter goes to the bathroom and another face is in the mirror. Somehow he knows that what is going on is no ordinary computer simulation. The train again explodes.
Colter finds that he is part of a program called ‘Source Code’ where the scientists can go back into someone’s memory eight minutes before death. Colter finds that his mission is to discover where the bomb is on the train and to discover who planted it. For the government it is a race of eight minutes to discover the terrorist. For Colter it is a race to save Christina, something that Goodwin says cannot happen. Jeffery Wright plays the head scientist in charge of Source Code and doesn’t realize how powerful the program has become.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives another solid performance in Source Code. Here he is an action hero without being an action hero. With every pass back into the past, he discovers just a little more about this world and how it changes. He soon discovers that this is not some vast faux place of 0 and 1 encryptions, but a real tangible place. His exploration into the Source Code program mirrors the inner exploration of the character. He knows that something is not right in this world just as everything is not right in the world of his black box.
It is easy to see how someone could fall in love with Michelle Monaghan in eight minutes. She just oozes charm in a weakly written role. She has to be the same person, exactly the same way, time and time again. A difficult little bit of acting that she pulls of with a certain grace
Vera Farmiga basically plays to the camera, pushing the mission on Colter. When almost all of your acting has to be a straight ahead shot, the challenge is to make it not become monotonous. Vera shows both hard-nosed military actions with some female compassion with her captive Colter. The diametrically opposed positions of army superior and caring mother make the role be successful for Vera.
Director Duncan Jones crafts a film about questioning the nature of being in the milieu of a thriller. Source Code is not a film about finding the bomb but a film about the reality of that exactly reality consists of. All the technical aspects he showed in the indi-favorite Moon is taken to a stronger degree. Taking a premise that is somewhat farfetched, Duncan gives a very emotional face to the action pieces.
Source Code is both a solid action-thriller and a deeper piece of cinema that explores what it is to be alive. It works on so different levels, both an exciting thrill ride and thinking mans bit of high-brow entertainment.