Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Simply put, director Duncan (MOON) Jones' latest dip into the science-fiction pool succeeds because it doesn't rely on a single trick or reveal to give it strength. Instead, it relies on great acting, a carefully plotting story and some adventurous directing to propel it through one of the most ambitious stories since INCEPTION although the two films share almost nothing in common besides a marketing campaign.
I think the less you know about SOURCE CODE, the better, but I'm going to tell you as much as I can without giving away too much. Pilot Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train, which isn't so bad except that the last thing he remembers is crashing his plane in Afghanistan. In the eight minutes that follow, he discovers that he's on a commuter train heading into Chicago, and that he's inside the body of a man named Sean Fentriss. Across from him is Christina (Michelle Monaghan), clearly someone he knows from sharing this same train ride every morning, but they aren't exactly friends. The train is fairly full, and by the end of the eight minutes, a bomb goes off and everyone on the train dies.
Then Colter wakes up again, only this time he's in a dark pod-like structure looking at a monitor with the face of a superior officer (Vera Farmiga), explaining to him that he's part of a government experiment used to stop terrorism. Through a process called "Source Code", Colter can go back to the moment just before the bomb went off, find out where the bomb is and who set it, in an effort to stop another, far greater attack by the same person/people in downtown Chicago (nobody wants that). Colter can't stop what has happened; his mission is to locate the bomber so that people in the real world can prevent another bombing. Got it? Now explain it to me...
The fun of SOURCE CODE-- which is pretty much 90 minutes of non-stop forward motion, despite all of its backward jumping-- is watching Colter relive the same eight minutes but in a different way each time. And with each new Source Code, he gets a little closer to his objective. Jones and writer Ben Ripley are smart enough not to give us a stupid twist by making Fentriss or Christina the bomber (as many cynics who haven't seen the film have speculated). No, this is a proper mystery, loaded with a very human center. As we get closer to discovering the bomber, we also peel away the layers of how Colter got in this position in the first place, what Farmiga's role in things are, and how the great Jeffrey Wright (playing a nutty professor working with Farmiga) figures into everything.
Amid all this tension and action is a great deal of humor and the sweet beginnings of a love story between Colter and Christina, and how he copes with the idea that there's nothing he can do to save her, since she's already dead. There's also an unexpected urge on Colter's part to reconnect with his estranged father before the need for Source Codes runs out once his mission is complete. And wouldn't you agree that Monaghan is a woman worth trying to save, even if it doesn't count in the real world?
SOURCE CODE brings up an array of questions concerning logic, ethics, and time travel (although these Source Codes aren't technically time travel), and I had a great time replaying the film in my head to test its theories of creating parallel time lines. And much like MOON, this film never forgets that living breathing characters are at the center of this work, and it is their essential humanity that drives the story in the end. But both films also share the question of what it is to be human, and on that level, SOURCE CODE operates on a haunting plain of existence.
I truly loved this movie, but more than that I was impressed by how it never forgets to let its driving force be its characters. I cannot wait to see this one again, since I consider it one of the only truly great films I've seen so far this year, and I'm desperate to see what Duncan Jones has in store for us with the next in what will clearly be a long line of expertly realized works.
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