It’s not time travel, it’s time reassignment.
Source Code turns out to be a solid sci-fi thriller with a nice twist and a rather sobby Hollywood ending.
Duncan Jones’ second take on a feature film, after the captivating Moon in 2009. With Source Code he stays in the realms of science fiction, but takes on a more of a mainstream approach to his storytelling and with the themes that become lit in this action-packed 93 minutes.
Jake Gyllenhaal takes on the role of Captain Colter Stevens an American soldier who’s been moved from his mission in Afganistan to take part in an experimental mission Source Code. Source Code’s ment to send the consciousness of a trained soldier into the last moments of a person’s life, in this case the mind of Sean, a casualty in a train bombing in Chicago. The idea behind the source code is the permanent trace the last electric impluses and the last 8 minutes of a person’s mind are captured and can thereby be relived. Stevens’ mission in this 8 minutes is to identify the bomber on the train to prevent an even larger bomb-threat in Central Chicago.
Colter has to profile the people on the train from Sean’s point of view trying to ‘save the world’ whilst at the same time falling for the girl sitting opposite him, Christina (played by Michelle Monaghan). When he does succeed in his mission, Colter still feels the need to save everyone on the train. Twists and romance ensue.
The new rise and popularity of sci-fi writing both in television (JJ Abrams’ Lost and Fringe, the Battlestar Galagtica reboot, the Stargate’s) and film have brought great fortune to sci-fi buffs everywhere; what I find especially enjoyable is the founding of the science in actual reality, using a certain theory in order to alter the reality we are in now without seeming too ludicrous. Source Code leaves certain plot holes and in my view doesn’t explain enough; maybe I’m asking too much from a 1½ hour movie. Getting used to the season and hour-long storty telling of sci-fi (that still leaves obvious gaps) I might be asking too much from Source Code. In all fairness, it’s very entertaining, it’s surprising and it works for different audiences without compromising too much. And for me anything that even remotely touches on the concept of parallel universes is a hit.
The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Monaghan is undeniable and breathes life to rather unremarkable characters. Colter Stevens is a stereotype of an American fighter: dedicated, patriotic and troubled with daddy issues. The 8-minute timeframe that Stevens has to deal with lays out an interesting (and extensively explored) setting for the characters to interact; we learn the relationships and dynamic within the small space carefully, and the repeated scene is seen from mutliple perspectives. This leaves room for a bonding between Gyllenhaal and Monaghan, truly the higlight of the show character-wise.
Often films come with baggage; the one thing that bothered me here, is the ending. Do we really need a meta-exploration of ‘fate’ and how everything and all things are meant to happen for a reason, in this case meeting a woman (the most common reason why anything happens or is done according to Hollywood). The fact is that often these types of preachy after-thoughts leave a bitter taste in your mouth after the film’s finished. A forced happy ending is often something that underestimates the audience, satisfying only a part of the audience, in this case the ones craving romance. The fact is that in order to get this happy ending, the science is completely compromised, but not to an extent that would bother the average moviegoer.
All in all, Source Code finishes what it starts; it entertains without being too gimmicky or predictable, the acting is solid (Gyllenhaal has proven to be a respectable lead and Vera Farmiga as Stevens’ commanding officer could charm the pants of anyone. Actually entertaining thrillers that don’t have a self-evident ending are hard to come by, but 2011 has offered us two solid ones already, this and Limitless both worthy at least a rental.
7.5 / 10
You will like Source Code if…
– you enjoy science-fiction, action and thrill.
– you’re in desperate need for a Strangers on a Train throwback.
– you thought one of the best parts of The Departed was Vera Farmiga.
– you want to see the work of a future directing genius.
In theatres in the UK and US now, Finland on the 13th of May.