“Source Code” (Dir. Duncan Jones, 2011)
So Jake Gyllenhaall is jarred into consciousness on a Chicago commuter train sitting across from Michelle Monaghan who’s in mid conversation mode.
She thinks he’s somebody else, and from his reflection in the train’s restroom mirror – he is somebody else.
While still scrambling to figure out what’s going on, a massive explosion destroys the train and kills him, her, and hundreds of people. Then Gyllenhaall wakes up again, but this time in a dark chamber in some sort of laboratory with Vera Farmiga in a dark blue military suit on a video monitor.
Farmiga explains to Gylennhaall that he is on a mission to inhabit a specific passenger’s mind the last 8 minutes before the train is blown up in order to identify the bomber and thwart future attacks.
Therefore Gyllenhaall is thrust into the same scene again multiple times, “Groundhog Day” style.
This is a juicy premise that comes equipped with some tasty twists. Gyllenhaall, who is revealed to be a army helicopter pilot, is a smart guy so it’s fun to watch him try to figure out the suspects and manipulate the situation, all the while flirting with the playful Monaghan.
As Farmiga’s superior, a stodgy Jeffrey Wright is sternly looking over her shoulder spouting out the necessary exposition about the source code that they are utilizing: “It’s not time travel; it’s time reassignment.”
As the second film of director Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son whose first movie “Moon” is seriously worth checking out), “Source Code” is stylishly paced, elaborately assembled, and is filled with stunning visuals, but it has one fatal flaw that is really difficult for me to wrap my brain around.
Thing is, to reveal that flaw would be committing a major Spoiler! crime, so I’ll just say that this film is close to 80 maybe 85% of a superb surreal action thriller.
It’s one of Gyllenhaall’s most appealing performances displaying the right amount of tension and humility. By this point he doesn’t have to prove that he can carry a movie, but it’s still cool to see him again giving it the “old college try.”
Farmiga shows that even with her lips prudishly pursed, wearing a drab uniform, and with hair pulled back in a bun is still colossally cute. Her performance ain’t bad either – she conveys a restrained sense of urgency throughout.
Monaghan doesn’t have much of a character despite being the love interest, but she makes the most of it. Wright, as the handicapped “source code” scientist, is all sinister in his cold calculations in a predictable “heavy” manner, but although he’s mainly a device – he’s not a narrative problem like the one that keeps me from being 100% on board with this movie.
So much of this film is so good that I definitely recommend it, but that one particular plot hole (which I’m dying to go off on, but again – Spoiler! City) just keeps bugging me.
I know I over think these things, and that most folks will see it as a slick popcorn picture and go about their day, but “Source Code” is so close to absolute brilliance in its meticulousnessthat I just can’t help zeroing in the one element that almost derails the entire endeavor.
However, maybe getting wrapped up in that one glitch in the system is just as much fun as getting wrapped up in the rest of it.
“Source Code” is now playing in the Triangle at a multiplex near you.