Entertainment Magazine

Review #3640: Source Code (2011)

Posted on the 15 August 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Andy Spencer

Written by Ben Ripley
Directed by Duncan Jones

This film should probably be remembered as a sleeper sci-fi gem. I honestly didn’t expect this movie to do well at the box office: It’s by a director whose other film had an extremely limited run in theaters, and is remembered now only by independent film fans. However, Duncan Jones has done it again; he has managed to craft, a smart sci-fi thriller that, though more than a bit confusing, manages to tell a surprisingly human tale of terrorism, mind jumping, and how people should proactively get out there and seize the moment.

Review #3640: Source Code (2011)

The movie’s premise is one that is never sufficiently explained, but is cool enough to warrant curiosity by itself (BTW, calling this a science fiction film is a bit of a stretch, since there really isn’t much “science” in it). Apparently, a man’s brain will still possess enough electricity passing through it to allow someone to hijack their mind for eight minutes to relive this person’s final moments. Though this is one of the most ludicrous explanations I have ever heard for anything in a movie, it allows the same tense scenario to be played out differently each time.

A former helicopter pilot (Jake Gyllenhaal) is thrust into this experience inside a capsule of unspecified origin and location, and is forced to find the culprit of the train-mounted bomb that killed the man whose memory he is reliving. This really should go down in history as one of Gyllenhaal’s best roles, which he slips into like a glove, managing to be so convincing as a frantic abducted soldier and a crime-solving sleuth that you can see these emotions clearly in his eyes as he is constantly switched between these roles. Along for the ride is the deceased’s love interest (Michelle Monaghan), whose cheerful innocence and ignorance of the crisis at hand remind you that this is a simulated reality, that in real life, no one was aware of their imminent demise. She is who ultimately keeps the story’s human touch from slipping out of its grasp, and does so with an ease to rival Jake’s.

I’m a gamer, so I’ve played my fair share of video games. One company’s design philosophy is the “thirty seconds of fun” mantra, meaning that they try to give the player the aforementioned thirty seconds constantly throughout the overall experience. This was my first thought when I saw this film, except replace “thirty seconds” with “eight minutes.” There are two stories playing out in here: one is the main train-bomb thing, and the other is inside the dome, as Gyllenhaal desperately tries to determine where he his, what his family knows about him, and who is keeping him…wherever he is. Vera Farmiga plays the officer in charge of communicating with Gyllenhaal’s character, and she is Monaghan’s living counterpart, reminding Gyllenhaal constantly that there will be another bomb, and that this is why he needs to find the one who destroyed the train, and so on.

The parts taking place within reality are the ones meant to make you think, the parts in the dead guy’s mind are to entertain, and manage to do so consistently, despite the same scenario looping about seven times over the course of the film. The way in which Gyllenhaal’s character goes about trying to solve the mystery is elegant in how easy it is to relate to; he starts out not having a clue of how to go about his task, and slowly manages to work his way through various methods of detection, such as from which direction the explosion came, in which room the bomb is, calling the terrorist from the cell phone meant to detonate the bomb, and finally tracking down the actual person responsible. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Monaghan is strong, and everything about them suggests that they are the characters they are meant to be seen as, which begs the question as to whether the audience is meant to focus on the story or the characters.

Though the ending makes absolutely zero sense, it further strengthens the message that people need to get out there and live life to the fullest. This is, admittedly, and unusual message for a sci-fi thriller to have, and fortunately, is pulled off brilliantly. This movie is not one that will be made clearer by multiple viewings, which is good, because this little gem will shine in your memory for a while after you leave the theater.

Score: 9/10

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