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The Independent Critic

Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Duncan Jones
Ben Ripley
Rated PG-13
93 Mins.
Summit Entertainment
Audio Commentary with Jake Gyllenhaal & Duncan Jones; Cast Interviews; Science Focal Points; Trivia Track

 "Source Code" Review 
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There's a brilliant and wondrous film trying to escape from the clutches of Ben Ripley's script for Source Code, a far better than expected sci-fi thriller from director Duncan Jones (Moon) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens, a decorated soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man discovering that he's part of a mission to discover the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. Stevens, according to a Capt. Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) has become part of a government program called "Source Code," which enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. There's a second, much larger threat that could potentially claim millions of lives about to unfold in Chicago and Stevens has the task of reliving the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, in an effort to discover the identity of the bomber and, hopefully, interrupt the much larger pending disaster.

Follow all that?

Me neither.

Source Code may very well be cinematic masturbatory material for intellectuals and sci-fi geeks, its science seemingly preposterous yet the kind of science that folks much smarter than myself like to ponder, debate and reflect upon for hours on end. Intellectuals and sci-fi geeks may, in fact, be the group that ends up finding Source Code least satisfying thanks to an unnecessary ending that doesn't quite live up to the energetic, intelligent and surprisingly emotional nature of the rest of the film.

Truthfully, Source Code may very well resonate more on the action thriller level than as a true sci-fi flick, with its science bordering on absurd and Jones weaving in quite a bit more heart than one usually finds in this type of film, courtesy of disciplined and resonant performances from both Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan.

To give too much away would simply be a shame, given the ingenious and creative places that Jones takes this film, a badly titled pic that will hopefully find its audience on the strength of its reasonably well known cast (especially Gyllenhaal, of course).

Easily comparable to Groundhog Day or, on a certain level, Vantage Point, Source Code may end up being the most fun that true intellectuals have had in theaters this year and yet there's enough of a heart within the film that it may also be the first sci-fi/action thriller in awhile to make a truly decent date flick.

Jones, who is lesser known than one might expect as the son of rocker David Bowie, likely grew up around the more entertaining aspects of the whole science fiction scene and has clearly learned how to construct all of this into a film that may not necessarily make great sense but it does make for truly entertaining cinema.

Gyllenhaal initially portrays Stevens with a sort of Hitchcockian swagger, a hero in the more traditional sense of the word. Yet, by film's end the ole' Stevens swagger has become more grounded and humane. Stevens, who woke up in the body/mind of a high school teacher named Sean Fentress, pays more and more attention to the lovely Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who sits beside him with a sort of "What are you waiting for?" persona. He weaves his way, again and again, ever so briefly through the personalities and experiences of the diverse people who surround him and, as one might expect, over the course of his repeated trips reliving this experience he himself begins to change.

All we have is now. Is that enough?

Gyllenhaal reminds once again that he's one of America's gifted young actors, a young man capable of being both romantic lead and action hero or pretty much anything in between. Here, Gyllenhaal's Stevens is haunted and his psyche' shifts ever so slightly with each trip back through this trauma.

As we've come to expect, Michelle Monaghan adds tremendous depth and humanity to a woman who could have easily just been a romanticized caricature or afterthought. It is a tremendous testimony to Monaghan's underappreciated talent that Christina becomes a flesh and blood and vibrant young woman who matters throughout the course of these jaunts back in time. Similarly, Vera Farmiga finds unexpected depth as Capt. Goodwin, who adopts a hilariously HAL-like vocal pattern that you may or may not appreciate. Jeffrey Wright convinces as a partially mad scientist who supervises Captain Goodwin and who must keep the project on track long enough for everything to unfold.

Don Burgess's camera work is inventive and manages to keep the film lively despite the whole "reliving the same incident" scenario, while Chris Bacon's original music nicely weaves together a contemporary sound with hints of classic sci-fi genre sounds.

Source Code is an entirely different beast than Jones's previous pic, the Sam Rockwell led Moon, a quieter and more slowly paced flick that played out like a sci-fi meditation. While this writer has a slight preference for Moon, Source Code should prove to be a more market friendly production that could turn Jones into a well deserved household name.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic