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Source Code

Dir: Duncan Jones

Rating: 4.3/5.0

Summit Entertainment

93 Minutes

When I showed up for the press screening for Source Code, the latest from director Duncan Jones (Moon), I was greeted in the lobby with some troubling news. The power was out in the entire cinema. After waiting for 10 minutes, we were informed it would be hours before the power came back on and that we needed to return next week to see the film. Was this some elaborate publicity stunt? Anyone who has seen the trailer for the film knows Jake Gyllenhaal must relive the same eight minutes to stop an exploding train. Did the execs at Summit Entertainment plan to trap us critics in a similar Möbius Strip where we would go through the motions to see the movie over and over, a strange twist on the film’s theme?

Spoiler alert! Stop reading here if you have not seen the film (I’m warning you)! You will thank me later for it. Gyllenhaal plays Air Force Sergeant Colter Stevens, who wakes up on a Chicago-bound train confused and disoriented. Across from him sits Christina (Michelle Monaghan), a chipper woman who calls him Sean and acts as if they are old friends, deepening Colter’s confusion. He barely has time to deal with his panic when the entire train explodes in a fiery inferno.

So, Colter dies, right? Wrong. Source Code is just getting started. Colter awakens inside a metallic pod of some sort, strapped into his seat and still confused. There he communicates with Officer Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She informs him that the train has been blown up by a terrorist. By using the memory of one of the dead passengers, Colter must travel eight minutes backwards in time, again and again until he locates and stops the villain. Like a distillation of The Matrix and Groundhog Day, Source Code soon becomes a whodunit with a meta-twist.

In his debut Moon, Jones toys with the ideas of identity and duality. Although Source Code deals with similar themes, it is a fast-paced action film while Moon was a quiet, one man and a robot meditation on death and survival. Gone are the cold, monochromatic hallways, replaced with flashy action, fast cuts and loud explosions. But as Sam Rockwell’s character in Moon learns that he is just one of a series of replicants designed to do lunar work, the character in Source Code must not become someone entirely different to accomplish his task he must also discover where he himself is now, as he remains suspended in the pod-like contraption, communicating with Goodwin via a monitor.

Source Code is one of those rare science fiction movies that doesn’t dumb down its premise yet at the same time doesn’t sacrifice excitement for ideas. Jones keeps things moving like a high speed train and Gyllenhaal plays Stevens with palpable desperation. Supporting actresses Monaghan and Farmiga both infuse their characters with nuance, adding depth to a film based on a tricky premise. Moon may have been a quiet science-fiction meditation, but with Source Code, Jones pedals full throttle into the future, creating a pulse-pounding thriller. It’s one of the most exhilarating and satisfying films I’ve seen this year. I wouldn’t mind having to repeat the experience of watching it again and again.

by David Harris

See Also: Moon

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