Source Code (2011) – Review

Can Jake Gyllenhaal go against the laws of physics to save countless lives from a terrorist attack...?

Duncan Jones, the man behind 2009’s black horse Moon, returns with Ben Ripley-penned Source Code. With a more mainstream appeal than Moon‘s dark tale of isolation, Source Code follows in the footsteps of recent silver screen mind-benders Inception and The Adjustment Bureau. Whereas the Nolan and George Nolfi gave the brain sizeable meat to chew on with their cinematic offerings, Duncan Jones’s Source Code, whilst entertaining, provides the brain more with niggly plot holes than philosophical exposés.

Source Code follows the U.S. government’s attempts to enter the source code, the last eight minutes of one man’s life (here a teacher by the name of Shaun), in order to intercept a terrorist threat that has the potential to annihilate a substantial chunk of California. With all hope resting on the unsuspecting shoulders of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens, success hinges on him uncovering the story behind a fatal bomb hidden on a public train. Finding himself being blown up with charismatic fellow passenger Christina (Michelle Monaghan) every eight minutes before being confronted with the mind boggling riddles provided by the distant Goodwin, a government type reluctant to give too much away, he must uncover the the identity of the bomber before they can strike again.

In layman’s terms it’s loosely Groundhog Day meets The Matrix, but without the comedy or Hugo Weaving. Gyllenhaal’s emotional range seamlessly flows from confusion to hope, exasperation to resignation, providing the film with its hugely likeable lead who, in the wrong hands, could easily have annoyed or lost the interest of viewers. The supporting cast provide a neat backdrop to Colter’s woes and is only let down by Jeffrey Wright’s occasional over-acting as Dr. Rutledge. A bunch of stereotypical red herrings are present but they are slyly derided by the socially conscious script (whilst panicking in one of his early trips into Shaun’s source code, Colter exasperatedly asks one passenger if he is a comedian. When the answer is yes, Colter is quickly silenced).

In true blockbuster style Colter soon finds himself falling for the doomed Christina. With fate against them can he change the future by altering the past? With this, the story’s central concern unfolds. With Colter’s kindness jarring with the wishes of the power-crazed Rutledge, he finds himself facing an unenviable dilemma; whilst having to carry out his mission to unearth the passenger responsible for the death of the commuters he must also battle for love. The ending suffers slightly thanks to this predicament, seemingly cleaving the movie in two. Surprisingly little is made of the supposedly crucial discovery of the bomber, the story instead focusing on Colter’s fate and his burgeoning relationship with Christina. The touching back story that is slowly excavated by Colter, with the help of the reluctant Goodwin, makes up for this and prepares the audience for a not-so-happy ending.

With its slow revelations Source Code keeps the audience guessing which makes for entertaining watching. Not one for those who don’t like to be second guessed, Source Code just about manages to carry the baton for intellectual movie fodder that can provide intrigue as well as explosions.

Best bit: The slow discovery of Colter’s true predicament.
Best performance: Jake Gyllenhaal.
Watch this if you liked: Inception, Donnie Darko, The Adjustment Bureau.

The film shares numerous links with cult tv show Quantum Leap – one being that Colter’s father is voiced by Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula.

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