Source Code (2011) Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate (Image from Summit Entertainment)
1 hr. 32 mins.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, James A. Woods, Russell Peters
Directed by: Duncan Jones
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Critic’s Rating: *** ½ stars
Effective mind-bending cinema does not come around the corner very often. Thankfully, director Duncan Jones concocts a surrealistic and challenging sci-fi head-turner in the potent and pulsating Source Code. Jones (“Moon”) and screenwriter Ben Ripley (“Species: The Awakening”) spices up the quantum leap genre with a stylish and surging imagination that fulfills its cinematic obligation in suspense, stimulation and symmetry. In the tradition of twist and turning tales of intrigue and introspection such as The Fountain and Sliding Doors, the cunning and capable Source Code is in valued company as an action sci-fi thriller that penetrates the hungry senses.
Complex and compellingly taut, Source Code tells the topsy-turvy adventures of injured Army captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose connection with a experimental government project (the Source Code) sends him back in time. Colter discovers the strange sensation of inhabiting the body of a commuter that has witnessed a destructive Chicago-based train bombing. As disturbing as the circumstances are to the confused Colter the mission is quite clear. In a nutshell, Colter must locate the bomb and stop the bomber before further damage is violently repeated.
The stipulation is such that Colter has exactly eight minutes for each “thrust session” to attack this repetitive conflict. The other complication that sets in involves Colter’s attraction to a fellow passenger Christina (Michelle Monaghan, “Trucker”) who happens to be the co-worker of his educator’s alter ego’s body. In any event, the revolving hysteria of Colter’s disorientation as he relives the train explosion through redundant lapses of consciousness leaves him in an understandable stupor. It is a bizarre occurrence that Colter Stevens must tackle-think of his dilemma as an intense and puzzling version of Groundhog’s Day only more baffling.
As Colter encounters each returning moment, his visits become more curious as the facts and findings change constantly. This, of course, results in Colter yearning for more information about his whereabouts and the major task at hand to solve the multiple bombings crisis. It is a nerve-racking predicament that shapes the peculiar “alternate reality” he is experiencing at overwhelming odds.
In addition to Christina as the most important feminine presence in his life, Colter must occasionally answer to his project handler Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”) whenever he finds his “state of mind” situated in a darkened capsule before making his next quantum leap into the dire situation at large. On board to shed some light on more potential dirty bombings insight for Colter’s consideration is scientist Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright, “Cadillac Records”, “Shaft”) whose input is startlingly revealing about the hostile happenings taking place.
Regardless of the plausibility factors that figure into this kind of sensory cinema logic and logistics are tossed aside because Source Code is inviting enough to suspend one’s belief based on the sheer thrill and thriving imagery. The tension and revolving turmoil is undeniably believable. Jones has a riveting knack for the intrepid material that effortlessly captures its three-dimensional vibrant visuals. The wavering wonderment of curiosity and befuddlement in Source Code is devilishly demonstrated through tactical techniques that radiate the film’s spectacular aura.
Gyllenhaal’s exasperated and desperate wounded soldier Colter Stevens makes for a solid and wily tour guide as he leads the audience into an uncertain parallel universe where our second guessing methods are as genuine as the film’s leading protagonist. The performance by Gyllenhaal is both haunting and adventurous. Both female leads Monaghan and Farmiga are thoroughly realized and sharp.
As a high concept entertainment, Source Code is relentlessly fascinating in its kinetic doomsday mode. Imaginative and innovative, this sci-fi thriller sends a legitimate chill down the spine in enjoyable, bracing fashion.