SOURCE CODE is that level of that really awesome videogame that just threw a level at you that you’re constantly dying at or like a multiplayer shooter and re-spawning several times and each time trying new tactics to get the upper hand. Or maybe movie references are your thing in which case it’s kind of like a sci fi action version of GROUNDHOG’S DAY if you suffer from extreme short term memory eight minutes at a time. SOURCE CODE is a brilliant bit of constant déjà vu as orchestrated by director Duncan Jones, who piloted the magnificent sci fi thriller, MOON.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just entered in a nightmare that he continues to repeat every eight minutes. Stevens awakes on a doomed train that blows up in Chicago, except he is not Colter Stevens on this train, he’s a man named Sean. Stevens is a subject picked to enter the last eight minutes of Sean’s life on the train to find the identity of the person/person’s responsible for the terrorist attack on the train via an experimental program known as ‘the source code.’
Duncan Jones burst onto the scene with the phenomenal film MOON and he has made the step from the super low budget indie sci fi production to a higher profile gig here with SOURCE CODE. With MOON Jones was able to captivate from beginning to end with jaw dropping visuals and a stunning performance by Sam Rockwell, this time around it’s simply tension and story as the performances here aren’t quite as stellar and the emphasis on strong visuals is not the focus.
The effects work in SOURCE CODE looks very good when it’s there, but there are very few shots of big special effects to be had. The set pieces here are a train, an office/lab and one or two other small sets with the biggest effect being the exploding train at select times in the film. The setting is the city of Chicago so no big bucks had to go to creating a realistic version of a city easily accessible with a camera and crew.
Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t give a MOON-esque Rockwell performance, but he does anchor the film quite well for the popcorn sci fi actioner that it is. Michelle Monaghan also does well with the limited time she has while repeating some of the same lines over and over and over again. The biggest head scratcher is the very odd line delivery and acting on display from Jeffrey Wright. There’s something very stilted and robotic about his acting and it’s probably the one thing that keeps SOURCE CODE from being one of the more elite films of the year. Don’t worry though, even with the one major hiccup it’s still one of the best this year’s had to offer.
High concept thrillers are a gamble; you never can quite predict how people will respond or if they’ll come back for more even if they like it. SOURCE CODE is a film that you will want to revisit after watching it, if not to enjoy it time after time, then just to catch things you might have missed or clues you overlooked. The story isn’t perfect but it is engaging and interesting from beginning right up until the end where things might get a little unstable, but still pretty awesome. Add in the fast and furious score with some of the more tense moments where Gyllenhaal is desperately searching for answers and the result is an adrenaline pumping flick and another dinger knocked out of the park for Duncan Jones.
If you for any reason you had only eight minutes to live watching a movie wouldn’t be a top priority but luckily the time crunch is hypothetical so do yourself a favor and check out SOURCE CODE. If you were a fan of MOON you’ve almost nothing to lose; SOURCE CODE isn’t quite as well rounded as Jones’ first effort, but it’s definitely no sophomore slump. Movie lovers look around all corners of film looking for something fun and original while chastising the modern day of remakes reboots and rehashes and SOURCE CODE will easily fit that bill and then some.