Film Review – Source Code

Source Code Quad

When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. In an assignment unlike any he’s ever known, he learns he’s part of a government experiment called the “Source Code,” a program that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. With a second, much larger target threatening to kill millions in downtown Chicago, Colter re-lives the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind the bombs and prevent the next attack.

If Source Code sounds familiar then it’s true there’s more than a passing nod to Quantum Leap here, but the script by Ben Ripley (Species 3, Species: The Awakening) takes that premise, gives it a smaller amount of time and the caveat that nothing that happens in the Source Code can actually affect the outside world.

After Moon, it was always going to be interesting to see what Duncan Jones chose as his next picture. Source Code certainly feels bigger, glossier, with a wider range and yet, surprisingly still feels remarkably intimate and intense. Gyllenhaal is superb as Stevens, an man constantly thrown into the same unfamiliar situation, who is driven by his desire to be a good soldier and a good son. Guiding him faithfully is Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who shows greater compassion than Rutledge, the head of the Source Code project (Jeffrey Weaver).

Michelle Monaghan is supposedly the touchstone to this piece, yet feels sadly underused. Her role is a thankless one. Stevens’ task is not one he can share, and any progress he makes in gaining her trust has to be worked from scratch in each subsequent 8 minute burst.

The film runs at a neat 93 minutes, never outstaying it’s welcome. Jones finds neat tricks to convey repetition, and the pace is never stilted. Davies script is smart and surprisingly moving in places. As well as Quantum Leap, it references a host of other films such as Groundhog Day and The Matrix, but never feels like a copy or pastiche.

However, much as I like the look and feel of the flick and the great cast, I do have a big problem with the plotting of the movie.

It. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.

At. All.

Which is a bit of an issue. And yes, you can say “well it’s science fiction, it’s not real. Which is fair enough. But the film actually breaks it’s own logic on more than one occasion.

Now I don’t want to give too much away here, so I’ll give the most obvious, non-spoilery example. Stevens is told, he is in effect living through the last 8 minute of another man’s life. If that is the case, then he shouldn’t be able to venture outside of what that man experienced, because this is memory we’re dealing with, rather than time travel. However Stevens clearly steps out of his host body’s experiences on more than one occasion. Indeed he has to do so to further the plot.

This occurred to me while I was watching the film, rather than on reflection later, when it’s easy to pick holes. Despite my irritation it still didn’t feel as patronising or lazy as the out and out rule breaking that TRON:Legacy got away with at the end of last year.

Futhermore, even with my cross!face at the plot, I still really enjoyed the movie. Gyllenhaal is onscreen for much of the picture and as ever he is personable and watchable. Farmiga too is a joy and the perfect foil for Gyllenhaal. (More so than Monaghan, I’d argue).

Ultimately this is fluff – as another reviewer said, if Inception is a symphony then Source Code is a three minute pop song. But that doesn’t make it worthless or trite. Instead it absolutely does what it sets out to do, which is to be an accessible, sci-fi action flick. Great fun, just don’t let the plotting break your brain or logic circuits.

Source Code opens in the UK on April 1st.

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on March 25, 2011.

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