When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of a stranger sitting opposite Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who thinks he's someone else, he discovers he's part of a secret scientific mission to discover the identity of the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. He learns he's part of a government experiment, the Source Code, a program that enables him to cross over into another man's mind in the last 8 minutes of his life. With another, much larger Chicago target threatening to kill millions, Colter has to re-live the incident on the train over and over again, gathering clues each time, reporting via video-link to Collen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) at the lab. All the while he's not even sure of what's happened to him in his real life.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you're going to imagine brain travel as a sort of repeatable time travel process in which one man's senses can inhabit another's - after their death - you might as well go the whole hog and imagine they can also alter the past. But this isn't a time travel movie so much as Groundhog Day on digital steroids with a bomb plot at the core.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in a train, his head against the window, in the company of a pretty young woman who seems to know him. Christine (Michelle Monaghan), turns out to be a colleague of the man whose body he now inhabits - as he discovers in shock when he sees a reflection of himself. This sleight of hand is handled with a brief mirror reflection, to ensure we know that Gyllenhall doesn't look like Gyllenhaal to anyone but us. Not even him.
But it's best that we keep away from the storyline because it will only show up how far it stretches internal as well as external logic. The film is not a naturalistic drama; it's science fiction with a capital F. On its own terms, as an escapist action thriller with mixed echoes of films like Sucker Punch and Minority Report, Source Code is a decent effort.
Having cast Gyllenhaal and Monaghan, with Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright in key support roles, Duncan Jones has a full house of acting trumps to work with. So never mind the details of the story, feel the breadth of the scenario. Cleverly engaging the audience in a clue hunt on the train while our hero looks for the possible bomber, Jones has a lot of fun sending us up the garden path. He misjudges the tone of some of these furphies, though, which derail the mood with pratfall elements that don't belong.
Gyllenhaal does a great job playing some difficult scenes between his flips into another man's brain, where he is ably talked down by Farmiga's military lass, Colleen - a beautifully judged characterisation. Wright's work is a tad less successful, his character as the leader of the Source Code team full of idiosyncrasies but not enough ballast.
Technically the film is a treat, and is turbo charged with a brawny score from Chris Bacon, who takes every opportunity to drive up the tension and the angst levels. It's an OK entertainment, just don't try to work out the details.
Review by Louise Keller:
Make every second count is the essence of this beguiling sci-fi thriller with parallel realities that plays with time and destiny as it explores a multi-dimensional view of time, life and its possibilities. While there are resonances with Déjà Vu (Denzel Washington) and Next (Nicolas Cage), first time screenwriter Ben Ripley's story feels fresh and novel and in the directing hands of David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, whose 2009 debut film Moon divided audiences.
It's the story of a war hero who wants to change the world, the pretty girl he meets, the man who has created the alternate reality with his head and the woman who controls it with her heart. It's an intriguing and enjoyable film, although it's best not to dissect every element; logic is not the film's driver.
The story begins when Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself on a train - with another man's name and face, which he discovers when catching sight of himself in the washroom mirror. Christina (Michelle Monaghan), the effervescent girl sitting opposite him, chats as though she knows him well.
It takes a while to understand what is going on, but suffice to say that after 8 minutes and coinciding with a devastating bomb explosion, Stevens is zapped into another reality within a metal capsule where he receives instructions to identify the train's bomber from Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), a woman in uniform on a television monitor. To do this, he must return time and again to the train - before the bomb goes off.
It is not until the third or fourth time that Stevens is sent back to relive those 8 minutes in the train, that the rhythm of the film kicks in. He retraces his steps each time and while the same things happen - the ticket collector asks for his ticket, a woman spills coffee on his shoe and Christina's mobile phone rings on cue - Stevens makes different use of his time. Like Colter, we start to think outside the box and each time, more risks are taken.
Gyllenhaal grapples beautifully with the role, allowing us to understand his frustrations in every aspect of his situation. Monaghan slides easily into the role of the genuinely lovely girl on the train, while Farmiga injects steeliness into Goodwin, although we intuitively sense her compassion and integrity. Moral code does not figure in the brilliant mind of Dr Rutledge (Geoffrey Wright in fine form), whose invention the Source Code uses electro magnetic fields of the brain and high-concept time reassignment. This is the parallel reality in which the past can be revisited - in order to change the future. But can the past also be changed?
Tension builds as the plot becomes more and more complex and additional elements are added, including Stevens' relationship with his father and growing attachment to Christina. The stakes become greater too and by the time the film comes to its stunning conclusion, it more than delivers on our expectations. If you like your sci-fi to keep you off balance, I recommend Source Code. It's one of those films that you can rewind in your mind again and again as you wonder - how would I make my time count?
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SOURCE CODE (M)
CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, Cas Anvar, Russell Peters, Brent Skagford,
PRODUCER: Mark Gordon, Jordan Wynn
DIRECTOR: Duncan Jones
SCRIPT: Ben Ripley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch
MUSIC: Chris Bacon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Chusid
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 5, 2011