Source Code (2011)

“What would you do if you knew you only had one minute to live?”

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

It’s like the sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, yet rather than reliving a seemingly uneventful 24 hours, Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just 8 minutes to try and save thousands of lives at the hands of a terrorist plot.

Source Code manages to engage the audience immediately and have them hooked on a recurring 8 minute loop, it’s a hard task to do when written on paper, yet director Duncan Jones is successful in bringing it to life.

Source Code opens with Captain Colter Stevens awakening on a train, sat opposite a pretty and seemingly friendly Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). As if they were in in mid-conversation, Warren picks up the topic about her career and begins chatting away, yet Stevens has no idea how he got there or even who she is. A trip to the bathroom confirms what he least expected, he is in the body of another man.

Before figuring out what is going on though, a bomb explodes and he awakens again, yet to find himself in a chamber. Here he is able to communicate with Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) via a computer screen. She tells him he is part of a government operated programme called the Source Code, which allows people to relive the last 8 minutes of somebody else’s life. His mission is to locate the bomb on the train and to find the bomber within the 8 minutes he has been given. The train he awoke on had been blown up earlier that day. Everyone on board died but he now occupies the body of a man that he was best genetically suited with. With threats of another attack on downtown Chicago, the team operating the Source Code hold hope that if the bomber is identified, it would prevent the loss of thousands of more lives later that day.

In a race against time we see Stevens pushed to his limits, having to access his military training in order to save the lives of many people. His exhaustion is apparent after he is killed time and time again, yet he discovers a little more with each attempt.

Stevens is adamant that he could save all the people on the Chicago train as well as locate the bomber, yet Dr. Rutledge who is behind the scheme cannot seem to stress enough that this is not time travel, but more “time reassignment”. They can only hope to prevent a further attack on Chicago, and what has already happened that day will remain unchanged.

Gyllenhaal manages to bring Stevens to life, giving him a deeper quality that so many actors may have failed to do if given this role. It could have potentially been another movie about a jar-head on a mission, but Gyllenhaal’s portrayal allows the audience to really connect with the character and sympathise with him. His romantic connection with Monaghan is very believable too, especially as they don’t have much screen time together.

Audience members will either really enjoy the film for what it is, or pick too much at its inconceivable plot. The ending doesn’t help matters though, giving critics more leverage to poke holes in the film. It seems possible that the director strived to leave the film on such a high note with a ‘feel good’ factor, that the actual concept and logic behind Source Code was thrown off-balance.

Star Rating:  7/10

Directed by Duncan Jones.

Running time 86 minutes.

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