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Source Code

A sci-fi thriller directed by Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

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Alternate Realities Diverge And Multiply in The Source...."Groundhog Day" Collides With "Next"!

  • Apr 2, 2011
Moon” was an underappreciated sci-fi drama that never exactly made that much profit in the box-office. I really did enjoy the movie “Moon” which is why I was willing to take a chance with director Duncan Jones' latest attempt at a action/sci-fi thriller called “Source Code”. When I saw the trailers, it hit me as sort of a "Quantum Leap" and “Next” colliding with “Groundhog Day” and the cult movie “Retroactive”. In some ways, I was correct with my expectations, and I have to say this would be Duncan Jones’ attempt to cater to a much broader audience as the film feels rather commercial with its promise at an action-thriller that channels some sci-fi elements at first look, but his focus is more on a multi-faceted storyline. Jones’ devotion and commitment to his craft is truly admirable, but at the end, the core story feels rather uneven as it threatens to drag down its aces in its attempts to be more exciting and thought-provoking.

A soldier with the name of Coulter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens with the face of a beautiful woman right in front of him (Michelle Monaghan) and curiously she knows him with the name Sean Fentress. Confused and very disoriented, this young man tries to get his thoughts together as he sees himself with a different reflection of the mirror. Getting even more scared and agitated, the train on which he is on suddenly explodes and he wakes up again within a metal chamber, strapped to a chair and with a woman on a computer screen (Vera Farmiga) trying to get his attention. Identifying herself as Capt. Goodwin, Coulter discovers that he is participating in the ‘source code’ program, a device that allows a him to be dropped into the consciousness of a man of like build and make up; and he has been dropped into the body of this Sean Fentress. A terrorist has bombed this train, and so Coulter has eight minutes as Sean to find the bomber to stop him from doing one more act of terrorism in this reality.

                        Michelle Monaghan as Christina and Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens in "Source Code.''

                        Michelle Monaghan as Christina and Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens in "Source Code.''

                       Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens in ``Source Code.''

“Source Code” is a difficult film to review and rate without spoilers, but I will try. The screenplay written by Ben Ripley is mostly written like an action thriller. This film is all about the alternate realities and the metaphysical; it is not a time travel film at all, but it tries to bring forth its own theories at quantum physics, the soul and realities. It relies on revelations to keep things interesting, the more we go into the story, the more answers we get from it. The revelations were perfectly timed; it keeps things moving despite the fact that the movie has tons of plot repetitions and wrinkles. It is to Jones’ credit that he manages to keep things together, and how he was able to get me thinking. Now do not take this comment in a negative way, I liked the way the film exuded excitement, it was when you start thinking and how you begin to dissect its elements that you see the flaws in its groundwork. (go further down this review to see my spoiler-rich analysis)

I saw some similarities to the recent “The Adjustment Bureau” as it goes to several human themes. The motivations of the lead character stemmed from the idea of seizing the moment, and of finding a love. I am not exactly sure how I feel about this element, it feels a little hokey to be true. But I managed to give it a chance as people do find some ways to find happiness in the most unexpected areas. I didn’t mind it, but it did feel that the script was trying to incorporate a more attachable theme to its otherwise thriller premise. There are also some moments where Jones successfully goes into some credible human drama; yes, they were a little clichéd, but I cannot deny that they were timed well.

                       Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens in "Source Code.''

                      A scene from "Source Code."

  Michelle Monaghan as Christina in ``Source Code.''  Jeffrey Wright in ``Source Code.''

Gyllenhaal does manage to pull off the role of a man of action and a simple everyday man. I liked the way the actor portrayed the emotions; Stevens is a man who wants to get at the truth, and has better things to do than to flirt with the gorgeous woman in front of him. The more he gets comfortable with the situation, the more he becomes solid in his purpose. The screen time with Mognahan seems rather disjointed as was the film’s intentions, and I had not issues at all why Coulter would become taken by this woman named Cristina. Mognahan plays the part well; with charm and a sassy attitude; she wonders why her friend Sean is acting a bit off, but she sticks with him through the experience as they begin to know each other. Vera Farmiga plays the ’other woman’ in Coulter’s life as she plays Coulter’s only contact in the outside world; she talks to Coulter in a shaky, detached professionalism that feels rather sincere and yet unattached. The film not only does this what or why, there is a rich whodunit thing going on.

“Source Code” has a good direction going for it and honestly, the acting wasn’t bad at all. Yet, near the end, I feel that the movie may have gotten a little too over-ambitious. I am not sure, it got me thinking after I saw the film, but perhaps it is just me, but something was missing that it never gave me the impact that should have come by the climax. I liked the bold premise, and I have to say Jones knew what he wanted to do, but the theories and the metaphysical, quantum physics mumbo-jumbo requires a lot of suspension of disbelief from its viewer. It also doesn’t help when I thought that it contradicted some of its points. But despite my minor dissatisfactions, Duncan Jones is one director worth watching. “Source Code” is one decent flick and he got to show what he's got despite some weaknesses in the film’s premise.

Light Recommendation But a Rental First is advisable [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Source Code." Poster art for "Source Code."

Do not read if you haven’t seen the movie. I know sometimes one has to turn off their brain when watching a movie. But sometimes, once a director gets my brain working, I couldn't resist and I tarted to nit-pick the theories this movie tried to establish. I am curious how everyone else saw the movie.

Source Code is supposedly a device that allows someone to be planted in the memories of a man, so they can see eight minutes of his past. Everything are manifestations of his mind. Coulter is dead, and his subconscious mind may have clued him when Christine searched his name via a smartphone. (wow! It works anywhere). So after he had seen the terrorist, he reported it and therefore he prevented another disaster from happening. Then once he had completed his mission, Coulter goes back to the source code to save the people on the train. Once he succeeds he creates an alternate reality where everyone survived.

So basically what the script is suggesting, alternate realities can be taken from a single mind strong enough to hold a reality by force of will? Alternate realities can also be used to find killers and potential murderers? Ok I buy that, but what happens when that mind’s life-support is shut off? Would that mind die? Ok, let’s say that Coulter’s soul creates that alternate reality that is his heaven, what about the climax where he creates a new reality and manages to contact Goodwin and explains that they had succeeded-though it was different this time. (I assume that scene is another manifestation of another reality, or did they change the core reality?) So basically, electrons and the soul, as well as reality can be linked by alternate phones and thoughts? I understand the physics of alternate realities, but I was a little puzzled how one can be made from a memory?

Then this wouldn't be sci-fi but more on spirituality and electronic ghosts.  Is it a metaphor that our memories or experience can change our potential future or that we can live in a memory? Not sure, but it feels flimsy to me. I see a lot of made up things that contradicted its groundwork and wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny...

Please let me know what you think!

Alternate Realities Diverge And Multiply in The Source....

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April 12, 2011
Just saw this one and really enjoyed it, but agreed. Source Code is not as good as Moon, still entertaining and good to see Jones showing consistency!
April 03, 2011
I'd read the discussion after I see it. So, nothing like the Matrix, eh?
April 04, 2011
Nope. I think this was more like "Retroactive" the movie with James Belushi...
April 02, 2011
Honestly I haven't even heard of this movie as far as I can remember, great review WP.
April 03, 2011
check out Pandolfi's review, I think we are almost on full agreement: http://lunch.com/t/6k1r
April 02, 2011
As you know, I loved Moon and placed it as my favorite film of 2009, but I'm not sure what to think of this film. I've seen so, so many sci-fi and fantasy stories which feature this exact idea of letting the main character relive the same adventure each time trying it in a different way (it's been done on tv show episodes like Xena: Warrior Princess in "Been There, Done That" and Cleopatra 2525 in "Run Cleo Run", it's been done in films like Groundhog's Day, Run Lola Run, The Butterfly Effect, and even to some extent in Deja Vu). It's hard for me to imagine anyone adding something new or compelling to this formula, but then again, Moon utilized common sci-fi formulas but revitalized them through strong characterization and direction in order to avoid cliche. So, hopefully Jones can do the same here, especially since he's got a good cast to work with.
April 02, 2011
I know what you mean; I've seen this concept way overdone so many times. Jones is a really good director and it may be the only thing (aside from the cast) that keeps this one aloft from mediocrity. Once you see the film, I'd like for you to read my little blurb. I don't think it was Jones' fault but the script just became a little too over-ambitious. I think it may have ended a lot earlier and the finality became too forced imho.
April 02, 2011
By the way, I really liked the BUTTERFLY EFFECT concept but Kutcher just ruined that movie for me.
April 02, 2011
Yeah, and I didn't care much for the direction either. It's an interesting formula (worked best in "Run Lola Run"), but it has to be dealt with a certain degree of realism and cliches must be avoided in order for it to carry any emotional impact. There was also a '90s animated show that had an episode with a similar premise, but I can't think of what it was for the life of me. That's going to annoy me. LOL!
April 02, 2011
Excellent review my friend, I have been beyond excited to see this since the first time I saw the trailer for it the ideals of time travel have been an obsession of mine since I was very young. The idea of simple being able to go back to a certain point and change the course of events in that exact moment has always fascinated me in the most profound way as ripple effects have as well. This is the kind of film that I can't wait to see the week it opens. Excellent work as always.
April 02, 2011
I hope to see your take on it pretty soon. I am dying to compare notes with you because maybe I was overthinking it, I liked the theory of ripple effects but I won't say any more. I want you to be taken by surprise and then perhaps we can talk about the movie!
April 02, 2011
The idea of causing a massive chain reaction that seeps through time is an almost mesmerizing , thought provoking idea   the idea of being able to utterly change the future with one small change made to the past is almost breathtaking when you think about it and has always been something I have been utterly fascinated with, plus i hope to compare notes with you as well. My dad is hyped to see this as well but sadly for all the wrong reasons but I can't wait to see this film  in action.
April 02, 2011
I am dying to talk to someone about the groundwork laid out in this movie. I hope you see it soon!
April 02, 2011
I'm seeing it this Sunday hopefully.
April 02, 2011
message me when you post a review!
April 02, 2011
I will make sure to do that.
More Source Code reviews
review by . April 01, 2011
The Source Code Delivers
Following upon his breakout success with the film Moon director Duncan Jones has returned with Source Code and has proven that he is not a one-hit wonder but also a talent on the rise. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens who, after waking up on a train, finds himself disoriented and unable to identify his travel companion, the attractive Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), who sits across from him eagerly discussing things they appear to have spoken about previously. Taking a quick …
review by . April 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Source Code is a suspenseful, surprisingly intelligent, occasionally touching, movie that’s far better than I’d expected it to be. With tight pacing, great editing, good acting and fine directing by Duncan Jones, best known for Moon, it’s a very good sci-fi action film released outside the usual summertime area for such movies. The film tells the tale of a man (Jake Gyllenhall), who wakes up on a train. He has no idea why he’s there or who the woman across …
review by . August 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Source Code" is an engaging thriller, a touching human love-story, and an intelligent science-fiction flick all rolled up into one 90-minute film. That's a lot of ambition, and if you know the concept of the film, you'll know exactly how much this film carries with it. I suppose you either like it - and many will - or you don't. I didn't find it to be masterful, but for what it is; I was appreciative of it. Here's a thriller that is truly thrilling, and a …
review by . May 02, 2011
Well, who knew David Bowie's son would turn into quite the talented young director? I, as of now, have not seen Moon, but I really want to, and seeing this movie has secured my faith in Jones and knowledge that he can deliver great movies. Anyway, I have finally seen Source Code, which was one of my most anticipated movies of the year (besides Scream 4 and a lot of superhero stuff). May I say, I was not disappointed. This is the best film of the year thus far and if nothing more similar comes, …
review by . March 31, 2011
Problems at the Source
THE SOURCE CODE   Written by Ben Ripley   Directed by Duncan Jones   Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Mognahan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright       Colter Stevens: It’s the same train but it’s different.       The dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal is doing a little dreaming of his own, his head resting against the glass as he rides a commuter train into Chicago, one seemingly random morning. This is the onset of …
review by . May 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
You wake up on a Chicago Commuter train. You are disoriented you feel out of place in this situation as if this is some kind of surreal hyper-realistic, vivid dream. It feels so real so lifelike you start to look around to try to get your bearings when you hear a beautiful woman's voice calling you but she is calling you by a name that you are not familiar with, she is calling you Sean. But your name is not Sean   you have no idea who she is or what is going  you try …
review by . April 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an american soldier who wakes up in the body of a man he does not know. On a train to who knows where, his last memory is of him flying a helicopter in Afghanistan. He looks in the mirror and sees a different man, and after only 8 minutes in the train it explodes. Stevens then wakes up in some form of a pod, and is informed by a woman named Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) that he is the main part of a mission to find the bomb, and bomber that is in the Chicago …
review by . April 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         My natural impulse is to resist films about time travel and/or parallel universes, mostly because they operate under rules of logic so confusing, it would take nothing less than an advanced degree in quantum physics to understand them. Duncan Jones’ Source Code is like that; although it successfully draws you in and keeps you engaged, it’s founded on a scientific premise that actually makes less sense the more you think about it. Explanations …
review by . March 31, 2011
'Source Code' 'Two Jews On Film Aren't On The Same Track With This SciFi Thriller (Video)
'Source Code' directed by Duncan Jones stars Jake Gyllenhaal as decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens who wakes with a jolt to find himself on a commuter train heading into Chicago.       Although the other passengers all seem to know him, including a woman, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan, seated across from him, Colter has absolutely no idea where he is or how he got there.  The last thing he remembers is flying a helicopter in Afghanistan.     …
review by . July 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Source Code' Reboots the Sci-Fi Action Thriller Franchise
'Source Code' does what 'Vantage Point' tried, but failed, to do. It makes us look at a public scene where some imminent violence or calamity is about to take place, and then backs up to show us the same scene again with a different point-of-view. As has been stated time and time again, Source Code's method may be preposterous science fiction--like anime' adventure 'Paprika,' but its thrust is decidedly more closely aligned to 'Groundhog Day'.   …
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When decorated airman Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. In an assignment unlike any he's ever known, he learns he's part of a government experiment called the "Source Code", a program that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last 8 minutes of his life.

With a second much larger target threatening to kill millions in downtown Chicago, Colter re-lives the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind the bombs and prevent the next attack, but he eventually falls in love with one of the passengers.

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Director: Duncan Jones
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: April 1, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Ben Ripley
Studio: Summit Entertainment
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