Source Code is a science fiction thriller written by Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones. The majority of the film takes place on a train in Chicago in the same 8-minute period repeated over and over. Sound crazy? On paper, yeah, it might be but in the film, it makes sense…eventually.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, an army helicopter pilot who fought in the war in Afghanistan, or so he thought until he wakes up in what seems like a chamber with no doors or windows, only a computer monitor and a means of two-way communication with Air Force Officer Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga).
At the beginning, Stevens is exhausted and confused as to what’s going on other than that he’s doing a task to potentially save millions of Americans by going into what seems to be some sort of a simulation. In the simulation, he is on a train sitting opposite of Christina (Michelle Monaghan) but she keeps referring to him as Sean. Each scenario starts off the same way, “So I finally took your advice,” followed by a string of events and then free reign of the next eight minutes, until the train explodes. He is soon told that he has to find a bomb and the bomber in those eight minutes he is given. Each time, he can take a different approach as long as he achieves the goal. Find the bomber. He can retake the simulation over and over but time is limited because there is going to be another bombing soon.
Watching the movie after realizing what Captain Goodwin and developer Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) are after can be a bit frustrating because it seems like Stevens isn’t quite fully aware of how limited his situation is. Essentially, he’s not time traveling, he’s simply doing time research. He can alter the reality he’s visiting but what he’s altering doesn’t change the present. Once one understands that, one can move on with the task at hand.
It seems like Source Code uses this difficulty as a means of inserting an unnecessary love story into the film that made it seem awkward. As expected, Stevens is the guy and Christina is the girl he only somewhat knows on the train who is looking to make a fresh start. Along with Stevens’ goal is finding the bomber, he’s also looking to save Christina because, though she only gets eight minutes with him, he gets the repeated eight minutes to get to know her.
The storyline of Source Code is strong. It’s a very interesting plot based on a very flexible piece of technology that works very well as the source of this film. But the side plot of the love story takes more away than it adds. Although it adds an extra dimension to Stevens who needs a reason to move on once this task is done, it takes away from the focus of the source code and ultimately provides more of a distraction than another layer to fill out the movie.
The strongest part of Source Code, however, did come in the shape of a sub-plot and that’s in Stevens’ phone call to his father. A very touching moment and a point of realization that Stevens has accepted his fate in this development to save Chicago.
By the end of the film, everything that is needed to be is explained, even if it went unanswered for too long during the movie to ease the thought process a bit. One aspect of the ending itself was a bit too convenient for my liking. Though it was cute, it left a bit to be desired. Jake played a strong part and showed his frustration both inside and outside the simulation but his frustrations didn’t ease up on mine caused by lingering confusion and “No! Don’t do that! Do this instead!”
The Source Code was a strong film but presented in a slightly mediocre way. I was content but I wasn’t blown away.