Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train; a beautiful woman sits opposite him telling him she has taken his advice, but Colter does not know her. He rushes into the bathroom to throw some cold water on his face and when he sees his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he doesn’t recognise the face staring back at him. Within a few minutes, the train explodes and everyone on board is killed, except for Colter Stevens. Stevens then finds himself trapped in what looks to be a crashed military plane. A woman in an Air Force officer’s uniform speaks to him through a console, asking him if he remembers who he is, and more importantly, if he remembers his mission.
Colter is reliving the last 8 minutes of Sean Fentress’ life. Sean was killed with everyone else on a Chicago train that morning. These people are dead. This has happened and according to Colter’s supervisors, cannot be changed. Colter Stevens cannot save these people.
Any soldier I’ve ever served with would say that one death is service enough. (Colter Stevens)
A terrorist was responsible for the bomb and has threatened to set off another dirty bomb in a highly populated area of Chicago. Colter must relive the last 8 minutes of Sean’s life, again and again, until he finds the bomber so that the second explosion can be stopped. In short, Colter must change the past to save the future.
Is it just me, or whenever you see a train in a suspenseful movie, do you think Hitchcock? The movie begins with a sweeping aerial shot of Chicago and some very Hitch-style music in the background. The director may get a bit of a criticism for this. It seems these days, everyone borrows from Hitchcock. I think if you are going to be influenced by someone, why not be influenced by the great auteur? Especially if you are given a script where a lot of the action takes place on a train. As a filmmaker, you must be practically compelled to give a nod to Hitchcock. See it not as rip–off but as a homage.
“It’s the same train but different.” (Colter Stevens)
When you have repeat scenarios in a movie, they can seem dull and repetitive, and it is very hard to show the same set-up over and over again while managing to make it fresh and interesting. However, Source Code Director, Duncan Jones, and writer, Ben Ripley, have used humour and character to make the film seem fresh and interesting, and have also kept the running time to just over 90 minutes, so that the repeat scenario is not too laboured.
In a quirky aside, Duncan Jones, the director, must really love Chesney Hawkes. In Moon, Duncan Jones’ directorial debut, he used the One and Only, – Chesney Hawkes one-hit-wonder- as the alarm music, and in this film, he uses the song as Christina Warren’s (Michelle Monaghan) ringtone for an ex-boyfriend. You would think the son of David Bowie would have more high-brow musical tastes. However, this song does fit on both occasions and hammers home what the director is trying to say – if the song makes it into his third film, this might just be his trademark. Also, near the beginning of the movie, I noticed that Jake Gyllenhaal looks in the mirror and sees another face staring back at him. This screams Quantum Leap. So, it was nice to see the director acknowledging this by giving Scott Bakula a brief, but important, cameo. I like directors making little personal touches like this, it gives something for us movie geeks to talk about and it suggests to me that a director is not just making a film for a paycheck but it is more a labour of love.
The cast are all superb: Michelle Monaghan gives warmth and a personality to a character that is basically incidental; Jeffrey Wright is suitably callous as an “end justifies the means” villain; and Vera Farmiga plays Colleen Goodwin, with just the right amount of stoic pathos to make you like her. But above all, Jake Gyllenhaal shines in this movie. He is beginning to garner a reputation as an actor whose movies are a cut above the rest of the usual tripe that floods the cinemas. Prince of Persia is, of course, the exception that proves the rule.
Throughout the movie a sense of doom hangs over Colter Stevens and everyone else on the train. However, the movie does not end as you would expect, and after it is over, you will either love the ending or hate it. Some people will think it is too complicated and others will blast it for being a bit of a cop-out. It is an ending that will pique your interest and give you a chance to develop your own theory as to what actually happened. It is not Inception complicated, as some people are claiming. You may need a second watch to really grasp what was going on, but that would be about it.
“Everything’s gonna’ be okay.” Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan)
If you like a bit of J.J. Abrams Fringe, you will like Source Code. If you have a doctorate in physics, you may scoff at the idea of it, but as far as I am concerned, Source Code ticks all the boxes as Sci-Fi actioners go. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has wit, personality, breath-taking action sequences and an ending that you will probably want to chat to your friends about. What more do you want? Grab yourself some popcorn, suspend your disbelief, then sit back, relax and enjoy.
by Nolene-Patricia Dougan