Review: Source Code

Review: Source Code

Kate Atherton writes for Bleeding Cool:

It's fair to say that audiences and critics alike expect great things from Duncan Jones' Source Code. That's what happens when your debut movie is as big a favourite as Moon has become. But the pressure isn't for Duncan Jones alone as there is hardly a scene in this film which Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't appear. Just as well then that Source Code is not only a worthy successor to Moon, it also features what is arguably Jake Gyllenhaal's finest performance.

I've admired the marketing for Source Code. The trailers reveal just enough but never too much and the film certainly benefits if you are every bit as much in the dark as its protagonist Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal). The initial premise of Source Code is simple: what would happen if a train were to explode killing everyone on board but you were then able to go back and relive the last eight minutes of one of the victims, over and over again until it becomes possible to identify the bomber and so prevent any further attacks?

Of course, it's not that simple – what about the woman on the train, played by Michelle Monaghan, and Goodwin and :the creator" in the source code base, played by Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright? And who is this Captain Colter Stevens anyway?

Much of the action take place in two confined places: the source code pod and the train. This is familiar territory to Duncan Jones who worked wonders on the tiny set of Moon. This time there is the added restriction of an eight-minute time loop, which also brings the challenge of keeping this interesting and surprising.

Another similarity to Moon comes with the leading character. As with Moon's Sam, Colter is isolated and having to deal with something he doesn't totally understand. He is vulnerable, but brave.

Credit here must go to Jake Gyllenhaal. Being blown up every eight minutes isn't exactly conducive to character development but he manages to overcome it. The chilling moments in the pod complement the 'real world' of the train and, as Colter gets to know the doomed passengers on the train, the feelings warmth and compassion grow and the action begins to take a back seat. Against all odds, there are moments of true romance here. There are also little flutters of humour as Colter realises just how ludicrous his situation is.

The supporting cast are excellent. It's difficult to fault Vera Farmiga in anything and Source Code is no exception. Michelle Monaghan has less to do with her recurring eight minutes – and that isn't her fault – but she continually finds fresh ways to deal with the new Colter before her. Jeffrey Wright is enigmatic as the controller. I wouldn't have minded learning more about him, but when there's only eight minutes to work with…

Much has been said about the similarities between Source Code and Inception and Groundhog Day, and it may well remind you of other things as well, but there is much more to Source Code than folding realities and repeating periods of time. As with most science fiction and time-travelling movies, there are going to be elements you will question or argue over. But beyond these questions, the film succeeds wonderfully on a larger scale too, combining a compelling and exciting thriller about the bombing of a train, and an intense and moving psychological drama about a man confined within his own mind.

Source Code is out in the US and UK on 1 April. See it.