Saturday, 2 April 2011

Source Code

Year: 2011
Director: Duncan Jones
Screenplay: Ben Ripley
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Running Time: 93 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction, thriller, action

Summary: Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), a decorated US airman deployed in Afghanistan, wakes up to find himself on a morning commuter train heading towards Chicago with no memory of how he got there. Also the woman sitting opposite him, Christina (Monaghan), despite him having no memory of her, seems to be convinced that he is a friend of hers, a teacher named Sean Fentress. When Stevens looks in the mirror he sees a completely different face staring back at him. Eight minutes after he wakes up the train is destroyed by a bomb.
Stevens awakes to find himself strapped into a pod-like capsule. A military woman, Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga), informs him that he is part of an exerimental program called "Source Code", which allows the participant the ability to take over someone else's body in the final eight minutes of that person's life. The train that Stevens awoke on was destroyed in a terrorist attack earlier this morning. His mission is to keep going back into the Source Code to find out as much information as possible about the bomb and who planted it within the eight minute period, in order to prevent a nuclear device being detonated in downtown Chicago, causing the deaths of millions.
As he keeps going back in to the Source Code, Stevens begins to fall in love with Christina, however he has been told that, since it is technically only a simulation and not actual time travel, it is impossible to use Source Code to change the past. However, while Stevens frantically tries to influence the past, the secretive nature of Goodwin and the other military officers make him feel increasingly concerned about what is happening with his present.

Opinions: This film kind of plays as a blend of Groundhog Day (1993), Inception (2010) and the television series Quantum Leap (1989 - 1993), the influence of the show is acknowledged in the film by a key voice cameo being given to Scott Bakula, the star of Quantum Leap. The film is also similar in some respects to the film Deja Vu (2006), which also dealt with a person being sent back in time to prevent a bomb attack.
The film works on a number of different levels. The first level being the thriller element of trying to discover the bomb and the identity of the bomber on a crowded train within the eight minute "window". The second level being Stevens' present, strapped into an unpleasantly claustrophobic, dimly lit, locked capsule, all whining motors, faulty electronics and malfunctioning temperature controls. He frequently demands explanations and answers from his superiors but they constantly either dimiss him or just try to fob him off. The third level is Stevens' burgeoning love for Christina, even though he knows that she is dead and he has to relive her death over and over again.
Director Duncan Jones, who made his name with the critically acclaimed film Moon (2009), has a good feel for science-fiction and handles the action very well. The cast are brilliant with Jake Gyllenhaal providing a strong lead, and Michelle Monaghan engaging as Christina. Vera Farmiga also does great work with the very difficult role of Goodwin. Appearing mostly on a monitor screen in Stevens' capsule, she appears initially as a stiff, buttoned down antagonist whose role is mainly to argue with Gyllenhaal and to explain the plot. However, as the film goes on she becomes increasingly affecting and sympathetic.
The script is well-written and manages to be complex while still being comprehensible. There are plot holes and there are elements that don't make sense, but these won't really matter until well after the film is over. The film maintains interest and delivers frequent surprises. It's an above average science-fiction thriller.

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code

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