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Movie Review: Source Code

Films opening this weekend:
Hop - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; McKinley Mall Dipson; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Hollywood Regals; Flix; Transit Drive-In - REVIEW
Insidious - Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Quaker, Hollywood Regals
Source Code - Maple Ridge; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Quaker, Hollywood Regals; Flix

If it seems familiar, it is. Duncan Jones’s sophomore effort, after his one man-show Moon, is eerily similar to Tony Scott’s Déjà Vu from five years ago. But while the previous film dealt more with police work and action, Ben Ripley’s script for Source Code depends much more on science fiction. A governmental scientist has created a way for operatives to go into the past and look for clues to help avoid future tragedy—moving freely within a shadow world to complete whatever mission necessary. In this case, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is sent into a perpetual loop to find a terrorist bomber.

We enter the film as Stevens awakens without a clue as to how he got onto a speeding train when his last memory was in Afghanistan. Before any of the questions swimming around his mind can be answered, the train explodes in a ball of fire. Engulfed in the flames, Stevens awakens again, this time inside a metal capsule, harnessed in the air, starring at a computer monitor with Carol Goodwin’s (Vera Farmiga) face asking if he found the bomber. Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) are Stevens’s only link to the real world, his reentry reliant on helping them finish the mission.

Stevens goes back again and again to glean information, profile passengers, and hypothesize what happened. We are thrust back and forth between the eight minutes inside the Source Code—Rutledge’s name for the time loop into which Stevens has been sent— and reality, where the scientists direct Stevens' mission. The cold truth is that Stevens is merely walking through a replay—the real world always awaits and the people who died stay dead. Gyllenhaal plays the role wonderfully, going from stern soldier familiar with protocol and rank to a scared young man on a train who's falling in love with Christina (Michelle Monaghan) as he relives and relives her final eight minutes of life.

As the film moves towards its conclusion, you can question the validity of the science—the constructs of parallel dimensions, where consciousness exists, the questions of morality, and the definition of life—but those questions come with the territory of the sci-fi genre. I'll admit, I didn't expect the film to go exactly where it does. The revelatory twists and turns recall Jones's debut film as Stevens becomes an isolated creature detached from the rest of the world, trapped in a manufactured existence to solve mysteries. Saving lives should be every hero’s dream, but when the extenuating circumstances come to light, the moral ramifications of what’s happening become too complex for easy answers. Where the filmmakers end—though perhaps a bit heavy-handedly—is a springboard to further conversation.

Source Code 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

[1] MICHELLE MONAGHAN and JAKE GYLLENHAAL star in SOURCE CODE. Photo: Jonathan Wenk © 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
[2] VERA FARMIGA and JEFFREY WRIGHT star in SOURCE CODE. Photo: Jonathan Wenk © 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

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