Review by Jack Foley
THERE are those who might accuse Duncan Jones of venturing towards the dark side of the Moon for following up his brilliant indie debut with something more immediately mainstream.
But while Source Code isn’t as good as that first movie, it’s an enjoyable slice of sci-fi hokum that continues to underline Jones’s credentials as a filmmaker of considerable talent.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot serving in Afghanistan, who suddenly wakes up on a busy Chicago commuter train in someone else’s body.
When the train explodes, killing everyone on board, Stevens is transported back to a dark capsule where he’s told by two military commanders – one friendly (Vera Farmiga), one sinister (Jeffrey Wright) – that he is on a mission to find the bomber responsible and prevent a larger catastrophe.
He can do this using a source code, which enables him to keep returning to the train to relive the last eight minutes of the man he has become and ‘re-assign time’.
For Stevens, however, the mission becomes more complicated by his growing feelings for a fellow passenger (Michelle Monaghan) and by the suspicion that his own safety could be in peril.
For the most part, Source Code is a highly engaging race-against-time thriller with sci-fi and philosophical elements thrown in. Under Jones’s clever marshalling, it remains consistently absorbing and endlessly intriguing, even if some of the plot devices struggle to make sense under the cold light of day.
Jones, though, deserves credit for adeptly juggling the need to deliver blockbuster-style thrills with something a little more intelligent, while keeping the possibly repetitive scenario fresh and constantly evolving.
This is, after all, a film that could have become trapped by its restrictive locations and repeating format but Jones consistently finds ways to keep the story moving forward.
His nods to the moral and ethical implications of the source code are also intriguing and allow his A-list cast to flex their acting muscles, thereby delivering more rounded characters than we might otherwise have been able to expect.
Gyllenhaal brings typical charisma and edge to his everyman hero, Monaghan is suitably lovely as the woman worth trying to save, and Farmiga continues to build on her formidable reputation as an actress of exceptional talent (moving from icy cold boss to sympathetic colleague in effortless fashion and without being allowed to move too far from a TV screen the whole time). Only Wright hams it up somewhat but is still good value.
But therein lies another of Source Code’s successes – its ability to balance a sense of its own absurdity with the need to keep things fast moving and tense.
Jones has fun with this, particularly in his nods to Moon, which come courtesy of a couple of opening scenes involving Gyllenhaal’s character looking at ‘himself’ (think of the two Rockwells mirroring each other) as well as in the witty use of a ring-tone that emulates Moon’s alarm clock.
The only real downside comes towards the end, when a seemingly nice place to call a halt to the story almost becomes derailed by the mainstream need to go for the ultra happy.
But while disappointing in this regard, Jones still manages to leave viewers with something to ponder concerning the nature of fate and destiny… which is more than can be said for a lot of blockbusters.
Hence, enter with your expectations lowered and Source Code offers a fast ticket to some easy cinematic thrills.
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 15, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Duncan Jones interview
- Source Code Photo Gallery