Richard Roeper called “Source Code” the best movie he’s seen so far in 2011, and it’s hard to disagree.
The second feature film by Duncan Jones (son of the legendary musician David Bowie), “Source Code” is a wonderful thriller exploring the possibilities of the human mind, time alteration and alternate realities. Part “Memento,” part “Groundhog Day” and adapted to a post-9/11 crisis, “Source Code” doesn’t make much sense at first but is still amazing fun that will make audiences think.
In the movie Jake Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, an Air Force captain assigned to relive the last eight minutes of a man’s life on a train doomed to explode in a terrorist attack. Gyllenhaal relives these eight minutes in an effort to discover who is behind the attack and where his place is in a reality he cannot comprehend.
Jones has shown in his first film “Moon” that he is more than willing to warp our perception of reality, showing what could be instead of what actually is. “Source Code” is an appropriate sophomore effort for him in this respect. “Source Code” is a movie full of headgames, teasing audiences into thinking that they know what’s going on when they can’t be further from the truth. It’s chock full of plot twists that aren’t given away early on in the movie, leading to honest anticipation and build-up instead of one massive letdown after another.
Gyllenhaal leads a talented, if small and not well-known, cast through this movie. Michelle Monaghan (“Due Date,” “The Heartbreak Kid”) plays Christina, a woman he encounters on the train, and is able to adapt to each changing moment when it is in fact the same eight minutes each time. Vera Farmiga (“The Departed,” “Orphan”) plays Captain Colleen Goodwin, an officer assigned to assist Gyllenhaal through his mission. You can see in Farmiga’s actions the combination of dedication to the job and pangs of guilt for what she has to do; She is definitely an underrated actress.
One questionable performance is by veteran supporting actor Jeffrey Wright. His performance as Dr. Rutledge, the overseer of the source code operation, is annoyingly malicious and evil, to the extent that it’s a wonder why the character was chosen to head this operation in the first place.
The science of the movie is preposterous, but the movie goes along with the rules it sets for itself, intentionally leaving some aspects vague for the plot twists. Too often a film will sacrifice consistency for plot or dramatic effect, and it’s nice to see a movie take the effort to follow its own rules (especially from a young and relatively inexperienced director such as Jones).
There is a sense of moral dilemma presented throughout the movie – to see just how far are we willing to go and how much are we willing to sacrifice to save lives. Gyllenhaal’s character is more than willing to do whatever it takes to complete his mission, despite the toil it takes on him. Farmiga seems less willing to see him suffer, and this moral dilemma sets up a masterful, if nonsensical, ending that is the best anyone could hope for.
It’s hard to list in detail the reasons to see this movie without giving away far too many details. As soon as the movie starts, it’s kicked in high gear, constantly switching from one unexpected twist to the next. But let it be known, this is one of the best movies so far this year and should not be missed. Here’s hoping Jones keeps putting out movies of this caliber.