Source Code Review

Source Code is a newly invented project for ‘time reassignment’ allowing an individual to relive the last eight minutes of another’s life. In this instance it’s being used by the military for the morally justifiable reason of the greater good. Mentally torturing one man, Captain Colter Stevens, (Jake Gyllenhaal) to save thousands from a confirmed second terrorist attack (coz like movies mirror contemporary events right!) in down town Chicago. Placing Colter on an eight minutes from detonation train he has time enough to ascertain the bombers identity, but precious little time for anything else, or does he?

Jake Gyllenhaal is fast becoming, one can hope, Hollywood’s go to guy. Since the likes of Donnie Darko he has developed a charming and charismatic on screen presence that always slightly sets him apart from the Sam Worthington and Chris Pine breed of movie star. He’s becoming somewhat of a screen hero for the un-heroic generation. Slightly dishevelled and more witty than brawly, cunning than brute, you can be forgiven for seeing hints of Ford in his prime.

An early, and annoyingly reductive, verdict for Source Code was sadly the line ‘Inception meets Groundhog Day’ as well as the quote ‘better than Inception’ banded about like an annoyingly useless piece of provocative PR. Better than Inception this is not, as if? However the comparison is unfair and reviewers should shy away from using it as a yardstick just yet, for fear of stifling creativity.

The director’s last outing in Moon was an atmospheric and self reflective look at identity, awareness and isolation deftly handling plot turns that could have been so gimmicky, you suspect, had it not been Duncan Jones behind the camera. Jones brings the same touch of care and detail to this world, filling the movie with identifiers that make everything very relatable, there’s no surreal in this movie which helps to deliver its level of engagement.

Jones + Gyllenhaal + Monaghan = Gold

An engagement that is delivered in spades by the central protagonists. It is difficult to find yourself not caring for their fates. Gyllenhaal and Monaghan give rather understated performances. Shying away from the all American need to raise yourself to meet the situation presented; their performances echoing what you might consider to be your own reaction to this turn of events.

Gyllenhaal is not the self-sacrificing hero, rather intent on being selfish enough to let everyone die a few more times so he can satisfy his own inquisitive needs. Monaghan relaxed and jokey about her companions weird change of mentality fits the character perfectly. Really who does freak out if their friend starts acting a bit weird. No one expects the person sitting next to them to go all secret agent and then the train to blow up do they. Well with the level of animation some movie characters jump to at the slightest hint of a change from the status quo you’d be forgiven for thinking that.

Both characters give in to preconceptions and motivations that feel demonstrably real. The scripting, from Ben Ripley,and directing are of course the root of this success but that the actors give the mundane and personal actions a heroic and engaging feel is testament to their burgeoning talent.

Layered over these wonderfully real performances the true beauty of the movie is its pacing. Where as for the public Groundhog Day became laborious in parts one can imagine that the film-makers were so excited over their concept they just went for it reel after reel after reel. Jones it seems is more aware of this issue and keeps the film lively and moving, never causing us to feel as bored as our protagonist is lost.

And lost he is. In the girls eyes that he wakes up across from and in a battle to alter their seemingly irreversible fate every time the moebius strip relaunches itself. Most of all though, like Moon, in a battle to find out who he is, where he is and what’s happening to him. A realisation that comes in a heartbreaking twist that was always naggingly suspected but that the audience will never want to alight on. The tangible nature of the characters has us rooting for them to the last minutes, those last minutes coming often enough.

(Spoilers ahead…) In true Jones style the ‘main plot’ of the film is sidelined for the aforementioned issues of personality. Great, we’re finally getting closer to the bomber, but who cares really? What’s going to happen to our main characters? Their fate will cause controversy and not all will like the ending but perhaps like us the film-makers weren’t ready to let go of the characters they had created just yet.


Source Code is an intelligent and existentialist thriller that will keep you going round and around, especially if you give it some thinking time afterwards. So affectingly good that you’ll want to watch everyone die again a few more times, even if that is a bit sadistic. Watch it (and then watch it again) and you’ll understand why.


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