I’ve noticed a trend of terrible science fiction movies lately. Fortunately, Duncan Jones, director of Moon, has delivered another masterful mindbender. Like with Moon, this movie keeps you simultaneously stupefied and intrigued and delivers a deep, almost haunting experience even hours after you leave the theatre.
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a commuter train, disoriented and confused. He’s in somebody else’s body, chatting with Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), a woman he’s never met but who obviously knows him. Suddenly the train explodes, and Colter finds himself strapped into a cockpit, with the face of Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) peering in at him. She demands to know who destroyed the train, refusing to answer his questions and ultimately instructing him that he has to determine who the bomber is, and that he will relive the same eight final minutes of Sean Frentriss’ life until he does, or more people will die in a nuclear attack on the city of Chicago.
Eventually, his pleas for answers begin to wear down Captain Goodwin, and she asks Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) to help explain the predicament to Colter, who believes he is still stationed in Afghanistan and is demanding to know the status of his unit. He is a part of a project called Source Code, which has the ability to send qualified candidates into the last eight minutes of the shared experiences of the deceased. It’s a limited form of time travel where they send Coulter back in time, into a body that is compatible with his mind and he is able to use his time in this parallel reality to determine what really happened to the train.
Colter finds himself to be falling in love with Fentriss’ friend, Christina, and becomes fixated on not only finding the bomber, but on saving the train itself. Capt. Goodwin attempts to curtail his heroic ambitions by telling him that everyone on that train was killed, and changing it in a parallel reality will change nothing for Colter.
Eventually, he finds the bomber, a man named Derek Frost (Michael Arden). Frost murders both Christina and Colter inside the Source Code, but Colter is able to relay Frost’s identity and vehicle to Goodwin upon his return to the normal reality. Having accomplished his mission, Colter begs Goodwin to give him one change to go back and save the train and all onboard, a decision that may have changed the nature of our universe as we know it.
I found this movie to be gripping and enticing. While, like Groundhog Day, the protagonist re-lives the same time period over and over again, Source Code is an enjoyable movie. It had some good, intense action, subtle romance with amazing chemistry between Christina and Colter, and walked the fine line between mysteriousness and confusion very well. While at the end, the obvious time travel paradoxes are not addressed, it doesn’t detract from the movie, unless you feel like dwelling on the question of what happened to Sean Fentriss, or all those parallel realities that were created.
The film was also primarily filmed here in Montreal, so it has the hometown advantage as well. Overall, a very strong and fun film and I hope to see more from director Duncan Jones in the future, or any alternate pasts I happen to find myself in.