Jake Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens in the anticlimactic sci-fi thriller Source Code.
Too much repetition
Source Code should have been better. Direction, staging, dialogue, plot and acting are all quite good.
The movie’s repetitive Groundhog Day-like action, even though well executed, becomes groan-worthy after Capt. Stevens’ third or fourth trip into danger.
Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) tells the time traveler that he’s being sent into a window of eight minutes on a doomed Chicago commuter train to discover who set a deadly bomb. It’s a matter of urgent national security, he says.
A national security mission
More terror attacks are expected. Although the life and death trip jars and disorients Stevens, he’s helping to save many lives.
The face of officer Colleen Goodwin (always excellent Vera Farmiga) appears onscreen every time Stevens is blown to bits and jettisoned back to the present in a space shuttle-like pod. Their relationship is cryptic.
Goodwin is hiding something from Stevens, but he can’t quite remember what that is.
Jittery action and amnesia
The captain’s struggles with memory and identity are best left to you to fathom and enjoy. Meanwhile jittery action flings you along with Stevens from life to death, past to present.
Beautiful Christina (Michelle Monaghan) appears across from Stevens each time he returns. Their growing mutual attraction in the face of certain death adds interest. Monaghan’s impressive credits include Gone Baby Gone (2007) and Eagle Eye (2008).
Changing the future
Stevens tries new strategies and interacts differently with the passengers each time. Repeatedly, coffee is spilled and a conductor collects tickets. Stevens hunts differently for the terrorist each time.
The hero discovers that his actions can change what happens. Soon he wants to prevent the accident, save Christina and find the bomber.
One by one the passengers come under suspicion. Comedian Russell Peters plays a funny passenger who does stand-up comedy on a dare from Stevens.
Confronting a bomber
Finally the bomber is someone we didn’t expect. Stevens confronts him, but can he stop him, disable the bomb and change anything? Goodwin and Rutledge warn him not to stray from his fact-finding mission.
Director Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son and director of Moon) achieves dramatic tension during the train scenes. Occasionally he evokes a Hitchcock-like feeling.
Dangers during filming
The actors reportedly suffered from motion sickness during the filming of high speed action.
Gyllenhaal is manic with purpose, a romantic at heart like Jamie Randall in Love & Other Drugs (2010) and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain (2005).
Free will explored
Source Code delves into free will and conscience like The Adjustment Bureau, the Bourne films and Green Zone. Stevens wants to serve his country and be happy.
Questions arise about Stevens’ mission. Is his service voluntary? Is he being held against his will?
Farmiga is great as a dutiful career military woman who begins to doubt the mission and empathize with Stevens.
Wright’s tremendous performance
Wright is a tremendous, powerful actor who deserves more roles. Superb as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Basquiat, 1996), he recently played Colin Powell in W. (2008) and Muddy Waters inCadillac Records (2008).
Source Code’s finale adds to our disorientation. Goodwin receives a mysterious phone message. Rutledge’s true colors are revealed. (3.5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Source Code, you might enjoy: Love & Other Drugs; The Adjustment Bureau.
Source Code 2011 / PG-13 / 1 Hour, 33 min
Cast Overview: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, Cas Anvar, Russell Peters
Director: Duncan Jones
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller, Suspense