Movie Review - Source Code
There are two major problems with this movie and both problems go to its premise and its ultimate stakes. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a military pilot who finds himself on a train to Chicago. He suddenly wakes up not knowing how he got there and sitting across talking to him is a woman he's never met before, played by Michelle Monaghan (Eagle Eye and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Eight minutes later, that train explodes. Stevens then wakes up in a capsule. How he got in the capsule, who blew up the train and stopping it becomes the thrust of this movie.
As Dr. Rutledge, played by Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat and Angels in America), explains, Stevens is part of an experiment called Source Code. Rutledge invented Source Code and what it does is put Stevens' mind into a very life-like, virtual reality based on the memories of the last eight minutes of a person's life. For Stevens, his mind was put into Sean Fentress's last eight mintues. Fentress was a teacher and passenger on the Chicago train before it exploded.
Stevens only gets eight minutes inside the virtual memory land, but he can go back into it over and over again until he can find the bomber. It's like a scarier, sci-fi version of Groundhog Day. There's a really interesting Quantum Leap mirror moment. It's funny because Scott Bakula who was the star of Quantum Leap plays Stevens' father whom you only hear over the phone. You can draw a few similarities between that NBC series and this movie. One of which is Vera Farmiga (The Departed and Up in the Air) who plays Colleen Goodwin. For lack of a better description of her role, Goodwin is the Al Calavicci to Gyllenhaal's Sam Beckett.
It's unfortunate that the filmmakers here didn't put as much care and consistency to the science as the TV makers did. For example, the chronology of this movie never makes much sense. It seems like the movie takes place all in one day. If that's the case, Rutledge and his team would have needed to have gone to the train crash site, found Fentress' burned body, extracted the source code and brought it back to the lab literally within a matter of moments of the train exploding. That's one thing, but if the train exploded, which it did, and everything in it was burned, how did they extract the source code, or this guy's memories at all? Wouldn't they have needed the body, which includes the brain, not to have been burned?
And, despite the Quantum Leap or even 12 Monkeys similarities, this movie would have the audience believe that this is not about time travel, which would make everything that happens pointless because essentially you're just playing with the memories of a dead guy. Somehow, the filmmakers realized this so they totally cheat the science they establish and in the end they do make it about time travel, seemingly just to give the film an upbeat ending. Unfortunately, it completely undermines whatever authenticity or authority this movie had.
This, I feel, was a studio movie, so I won't blame director Duncan Jones. Jones made an amazing sci-fi film two years ago called Moon, which didn't have as upbeat an ending as this one, nor did it do anything to subvert its science, and because of which has a million times more satisfying a conclusion. Aside from the cool, crance shot in front of Cloud Gate in Chicago's Millennium Park, this movie had little that was satisfying.
One Star out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, disturbing images and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 33 mins.