I went to see Source Code, director Duncan Jones’s second full-length feature, lured with the promise of a time loop, one of my favorite science fiction plotlines ever. What I got was an excellent film: Lots of excitement (after all, a train explodes repeatedly) but no over-the-top action, a clever plot with only smallish inconsistencies I was able to live with, very likeable protagonists, a sweet romance, and lovely images.
A man (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a Chicago commuter train as from a one-minute nap. A woman (Michelle Monaghan) whom he has never seen before, but who apparently knows him well, is carrying on a conversation with him. When he escapes to the train’s toilet, he sees a stranger’s face in the mirror. After eight minutes, the train explodes, killing the man and all other passengers.
The man is Colter Stevens, a soldier whose last memory is of duty in Afghanistan. He wakes up again, this time in a crudely built, narrow cubicle, where his only connection to the outside world is a screen, where he sees a woman in uniform, called Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She runs some tests with him and finally informs him he is on a special assignment. With the help of some very advanced technology, he is transported – repeatedly – into the body of Sean Fentress, a passenger on the train that exploded earlier this morning, eight minutes prior to the explosion. His job now is to identify the terrorist, as there is reason to believe he is planting a second, much bigger bomb.
To start with, I am a great fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, and he didn’t disappoint in this movie. He plays the man of action as believably as the confused passenger, and his dealings with Goodwin especially are very intense. Michelle Monaghan is charming and self-confident, and the other passengers on the train (the villain included) are a delightful mixture of ordinary folks.
As I said above, although there is sufficient action, the film does not depend on it. The dealings the protagonists have with each other are far more important. The romance, as it is, is developed with a light touch and thus very believable. What I almost liked best about the film, however, is the lighting and camera movements. Very, very atmospheric.
Some minor quibbles are: Some logical inconsistencies – probably unavoidable in a time loop movie. And there is a father-son-relationship motif, which is not bad in itself, but it seems to me I can’t watch a single US movie at the moments without it. So give it a rest, directors! And although I loved the film’s ending, I wonder if I wouldn’t have liked another one even better. An alternative ending is something I will definitely check out on a future DVD edition.
All in all, Source Code is a clever, moving film that I enjoyed tremendously. I recommend it highly!
- Rike Horstmann