Directed by Duncan Jones and written by Ben Ripley, Source Code tells the story of an army helicopter pilot sent on a mission by the Air Force to travel back in time on a train before it exploded. In search for the bomb and who blew up the train, he has eight minutes to revisit everything that is happening while he falls for a passenger on that ill-fated train. It is with each trip back in time, he has to figure out what is going on while hoping to stop another train being blown up. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright. Source Code is a dazzling yet intense sci-fi mystery from Duncan Jones and company.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) was an army helicopter pilot whose last memory was fighting in a mission in Afghanistan. Then, he’s woken up on a train where he’s sitting across a pretty young woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan) who calls him Sean. Stevens claims he’s not Sean as he is wondering what he’s going on as he sees himself in another man’s body. Then all of a sudden, the train blows up as Stevens is suddenly inside a capsule. Unaware of what has happened to him, he sees a woman named Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) on a TV screen talking to him.
Captain Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) reveal that Stevens is part of a program to go back in time in an alternate reality for eight minutes. Stevens’ mission is to find the bomb and the bomber before another bomb is to detonate inside the city of Chicago. Stevens would revisit the alternate world as he finds the bomb but has a hard time finding the bomber as he also tries to save Christina only realizing that she’s already died. Reliving the same events that happened on the train and figuring out everyone that was on the train, Stevens learns a shocking discovery about himself but also what he finds on the bomb as well as who is the bomber.
The film is about a man on a mission to find a bomb and the bomber to stop another bomb to blow up the city of Chicago. Yet, it’s told in a layered, surreal film where realities are blurred and there’s a lot of repetition going on. While it seems like it’s a plot device that is hard to follow, it’s only because the character of Captain Stevens is just trying to find the bomber as everyone in the train he’s in are suspects. With each trip, he has a yearning to save Christina realizing that in the real world, he couldn’t save her. When the eight minutes end, he’s back inside a capsule run by a program called the source code.
While the film is character study of sorts for Stevens’ exploration about his mission as well as the realities and alternate realities around him. He’s being watched by two other people in Captain Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge. Rutledge is a character that has good intentions as he hopes the source code program can save lives from other horrible events. Yet, he is more concerned about what the program can do than the person inside as he’s willing to do anything to get it to work. Then there’s Captain Goodwin, who is the film’s conscience who struggles to do her duties while being only sympathetic voice for Stevens as he struggles to do his mission as well as the discoveries he has. Ben Ripley’s screenplay has some twists and turns along with an ending that is very ambiguous that will upset some people depending on their interpretation. Yet, Ripley creates what is definitely an intriguing story.
Helming this multi-layered, surrealistic sci-fi thriller is Duncan Jones whose direction is definitely hypnotic as it takes place in very few locations and sets. While the story is based partially on repetition, it allows Jones to re-do every moment as every trip that Stevens take is different though the same thing happens except with how Stevens reacts. The film does move back and forth from this surreal reality to the actual reality while there’s a lot going on. Jones’ direction is definitely engaging in the way he follows Stevens trying to find out the mystery while going inside the actual reality where Goodwin and Rutledge try to figure out what’s happening. While the film isn’t perfect and has a few flaws, Jones succeeds in creating a very mesmerizing yet stylish sci-fi thriller that allows the audience to be engaged by the mystery.
Cinematographer Don Burgess does an excellent job with the film‘s cinematography from the de-saturated look of the capsule interior to a more, straightforward look to the look of the air force base where Captain Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge are at. Even the train has a look that is a bit stylish but also straightforward for its presentation. Editor Paul Hirsch does a nice job with the editing by giving the film a pace that plays up to its suspense while slowing things down so that audiences can be engaged into what is happening. Even as it relies on swift transitions and fast-paced cuts to move from reality to surreal-reality.
Production designer Barry Chusid, along with set decorator Suzanne Cloutier and art director Pierre Perrault, does a very good job with the hollowed look of the capsule along with the broad look of the train. Costume designer Renee April also does a good job with the costumes from the casual clothing that the people wear on the train to the uniform that Captain Goodwin wears. Visual effects supervisor Louis Morin does a wonderful job with the visual effects for the transitions of Stevens‘ movement from reality to the alternate reality along with some slowed-down effects for the train explosions.
Sound designer Tom Bellfort and sound editor Branden Spencer do a spectacular job with the hollowed sound of the capsule to the tense atmosphere of the train along with the chaotic world of the base. The film’s music by Chris P. Bacon does a fantastic job with the suspenseful music that includes a great piece for the film’s opening credits. Even as the music plays to the drama with a swelling yet serene orchestral piece as Bacon’s work is the technical highlight of the film.
The cast is definitely wonderful with some memorable appearances from Russell Peters as a comedian on the train, Cas Avnar as a businessman with motion sickness, Frederick De Grandpre as the real Sean, and Michael Arden as a guy who left his wallet. Jeffrey Wright is excellent as Dr. Rutledge, a professor who is concerned with the success of the source code program. Though he’s a guy with good intentions, he’s a man who is more concerned with what it can do and what kind of impact it would have rather than be concerned for Captain Stevens as it’s a very devilish but fun role from Wright.
Michelle Monaghan is superb as Christina, an ill-fated passenger who often says the same dialogue. Yet, Monaghan makes it believable as she also breaks away from her part while being concerned for this guy named Sean. What could’ve been a throwaway role has Monaghan really sell into the chaos of what is gong on as well the idea of wanting to save someone as enjoyable as her. Vera Farmiga is amazing as Captain Goodwin, the conscience of the film as she is the only link into the real world that Stevens has. She is also a character who is conflicted with her duty and to help Stevens while realizing that there is a moral issue over Dr. Rutledge’s ideals.
Finally, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal in a phenomenal performance as Captain Colter Stevens. Gyllenhaal displays a real sense of dread and anxiety to a guy who has no idea what he’s doing at first only to struggle with his mission and what is happening to him. It’s a real engaging performance from Gyllenhaal as he definitely sells his character’s issues along with his own sense of longing and to try and do the right thing. This is definitely Gyllenhaal’s best performance since David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac.
Source Code is an excellent and exciting sci-fi thriller from Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley. Featuring top-notch performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, and Jeffrey Wright. It’s a smart film that doesn’t try and play tricks on an audience while sticking to an idea and keep people guessing. While it doesn’t have the stylish, dark tone of Jones’ previous film Moon, it does show that Jones is definitely becoming a filmmaker to watch. In the end, Source Code is a stellar triumph from Duncan Jones.
© thevoid99 2011
The script may not be that good, but Jones takes it up off the ground and makes this a suspenseful, and overall smart sci-fi thrill ride. Nice Review Steve!
Thanks Dan. I agree that the script isn't perfect but I was engaged by the story as well as the characters. I know people weren't high on the ending but it was ambiguous at least.
I'm excited for what Duncan Jones will do next but I hope he doesn't do the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He's not going to have a chance to make a good film. Fox really suck with big films that the potential to be more than just a blockbuster.
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