Source Code (2011)

We open up confused, just like Jake Gyllenhaal does. He’s on a train, and the woman across from him, Christina (Michelle Monaghan) is telling him that she decided to go with his idea. He’s perplex that she’s talking, much less to him, considering he was sleeping and has never seen her before in his life. He’s asked for his ticket, and she gets it. He heads to the bathroom, where his reflection does not look like Jake Gyllenhaal. He opens his wallet and finds out that his name is Sean Fentress. Then the train blows up, and we fade to black.

I wondered if it was a joke at this point. Was this really a short film about confusion? No, it isn’t. Gyllenhaal wakes up in a pod, where he is initially upside down. The voice inside rotates him, and then appears on the screen. He’s talking to Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who isn’t one for small talk. He remembers that his name is really Colter Stevens, and still wonders why he was on the train in the first place. He’s a soldier stationed in Afghanistan, after all. It’s explained that he needs to find the bomb, and the bomber, before being forced to replay the last eight minutes for a second time.

After time passes, he’s back in the pod, still confused, as are we. Eventually we’re told how this works, and how he’s able to become this Sean Fentress. Not that it matters, but he ends up being able to do what Bill Murray was able to in Groundhog Day, except he only has eight minutes before the simulation shuts off. He gets to keep all knowledge gained during these eight minutes, with the end goal being to find the bomber. See, all of these people are actually already dead, and the corporation that is allowing Colter to performance this “mission” have been given information that a second bomb, potentially killing millions of people, will go off later on. If Colter finds the bomber, millions of lives may be saved. That is a good reason for a soldier to act.

The plot moves from point to point very nicely and quickly, as Colton learns more about how he got into this pod, while also getting to know the people on-board the train. He takes a particular shine to Christina, who had already taken a linking to him. Or Sean. Whatever. He quickly realizes that these lives are ones that he wants to save, so he tries that. After waking up back in the pod, and being sent back to the train, he finds out that this is frivolous. These people are dead, and he’d been told that, so he must stop wasting time and go back to completing his mission. At least, that’s what he gets told.

The people who have him in this pod are incredibly business focused. This is largely because the inventor of the pod, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) is banking on his investment to actually save lives. Not, you know, because those lives are important to him, but instead, so he can secure financing for more of these projects. Yes, Source Code does have one of those messages about evil corporate businessmen, although it only becomes prevalent very late in the incredibly short runtime.

Source Code only lasts about an hour and a half, and as a result, we are bombarded with information and with things to look at. This isn’t a movie that you want to miss one second of, because it feels like you’ll miss hours. There isn’t a moment to breathe, and in this case, this is a good thing. You might begin to question the absurdity of its claims and science if you’re given that time. But you aren’t. Instead, you get a mind-bending science fiction thriller that will keep your mind and heart engaged from beginning to end.

Actually, it’s more like “beginning to five minutes from the end,” because the ending is definitely the weakest point that we get. I’m fine with how it ended, even if it felt like kind of a cop out, but I didn’t like how long the final sequence felt. It’s just drawn out a few minutes too long, and it would have left a greater impact had it been cut earlier.

Regardless, the ending is still quite powerful and will leave you thinking not only about it, but also about the film as a whole. You’ll think back through the previous 90 minutes, and you’ll wonder exactly what just happened. You’ll hit yourself for not figuring out who the bomber was earlier, and you’ll realize just how much fun you had watching Jack Gyllenhaal fully embodying just how confused you are. The exposition given is required, and since Colton is basically your everyman that represents a large group of the audience, explanations don’t feel redundant because we need them.

For almost all of the time that Source Code plays, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I felt my heart pounding, my brain pumping, and I was thoroughly entertained. Because of the breakneck pace, I didn’t care if the science was preposterous, or if Michelle Monaghan’s character was greatly underused. I was simply having a ton of fun with a smart, thrilling science fiction film.

Source Code is a great movie filled with a ton of things to keep you engaged. There is hardly a moment wasted here, meaning you’re always going to have something to think about. Its ending does drag on for a little too long, but that’s the only significant complaint I have. Almost everything works here, and it results in a fantastic film that I hope everyone gets a chance to see.

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