You wake up suddenly on a train. The last thing you remember before now is piloting an aircraft in Afghanistan. But now you are here, sitting across from a lovely young lady, and she’s talking to you as if she knows you. Confused, you manage to get away for a moment as the train comes to a stop. You get off at the next station and look around. Chicago is in the distance. You get back on the train as it pulls away. Minutes later, the train explodes. Everyone on board dies. Now you’re suddenly in a new place, a capsule of some sort, strapped in. A video monitor comes on. Another lady in a military uniform speaks to you on the monitor.
This is how “Source Code” begins. It’s an exciting train ride action-mystery from Duncan Jones who previously directed the wonderful film “Moon”. “Source Code” stars Jake Gyllenhaal (“Love and Other Drugs,” “Prince of Persia,” “Brokeback Mountain”) as Captain Colter Stevens.
[Note: The next paragraph contains a few more plot details, not spoilers, but I’m letting you know because “Source Code” is best viewed knowing very little about it beforehand.]
It’s Captain Stevens (Gyllenhaal) who wakes up on the train in the body of an unknown man, assuming his identity. Stevens eventually learns that he’s part of a government experiment called the Source Code, a program which allows him to cross over into the body of someone else in the final eight minutes of their life. He discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. He re-lives the incident over and over again, each time gathering clues to hopefully solve the mystery and avert a second much larger disaster.
Gyllenhaal is in great form here. His everyman hero performance is right-on for this type of movie. The rest of the cast is good too. Michelle Monaghan (“Eagle Eye,” “Gone Baby Gone”) is Cristina Warren, i.e. the lady on the train. Jeffrey Wright (“Syriana,” “Angels in America”) is Dr. Rutledge, the nerdy and unscrupulous mastermind behind the experiment. And Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air,” “Orphan”) is Colleen Goodwin, the lady on the monitor. It’s Farmiga’s character and performance which provide the movie’s heart. And I’m sorry, but I have to say it: she has beautiful eyes.
“Source Code” isn’t perfect, but it thrills and entertains from beginning to end. It’s an efficient film, clocking in at 93 minutes, which felt just about right to me. The movie’s very good score (reminiscent of Hitchcock thrillers from yesteryear) was composed by Chris Bacon. There’s a sci-fi angle to the story, written by Ben Ripley, which includes time travel/alternate realities. If you choose, you can find errors and paradoxes with that story. I say don’t sweat it. The film is smart in the right places and dumbed down pleasantly in other places. Just grab your ticket and hop on board.
Rating 3 out of 4 stars
2011, Rated PG-13, 93 minutes, Action, Mystery, Romance