Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
Directed by: Duncan Jones (“Moon”)
Written by: Ben Ripley (debut)
Playing like a bizarre mix of the Billy Murray comedy “Groundhog’s Day” and the early 90s TV series “Quantum Leap,” director Duncan Jones’ second feature film, “Source Code,” is an exciting and smart sci-fi story that proves original ideas still exist out there – even if you have to search beyond time and space.
In “Source Code,” Jake Gyllenhaal (“Love and Other Drugs”) plays Capt. Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot stationed in Afghanistan who wakes up one day to discover he is no longer himself. He now inhabits the body of a high school teacher traveling into Chicago on a train with one of his fellow colleagues and possible love interest (Michlle Monaghan).
Extremely confused for the first half hour of the film, Capt. Colter soon learns he is part of a special mission, which gives him eight minutes to find a terrorist who ultimately ends up bombing the train he is on. Sent back and forth into this parallel universe by military officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and a team of scientists, Capt. Colter is forced to participate in what Goodwin calls a Source Code, a time reassignment program (way more interesting than the time traveling hooey Gyllenhaal goes through in “Prince of Persia”) that allows him to revisit past events in hopes of retrieving vital information and saving lives.
Shot in a Hitchockian-type style that keeps the intensity high, director Jones knows how to thread scenes together with inventiveness. Each time Capt. Colter fails at his mission, he awakes inside a mechanical pod, asked to report on what he has seen, and is sent back again without much warning. Like Sam Rockwell in Jones’ first film “Moon,” Capt. Colter is overwhelmed by isolation. Gyllenhaal, in a very convincing peroformance, gives his character depth and likeability. Each time he asks to speak to his father, Jones hits us hard with heartbreaking compassion.
It’s because of this that “Source Code” is more than just a fun sci-fi ride through the creative mind of Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley; there’s actually a reason we care about our leading man and the pain he is feeling as he is jerked around between worlds. While Jones delivers an enjoyable balance of charm and humor to the picture, it’s the emotional pull that keeps us deep inside “Source Code” eager to see the captain emerge from the smoke and mirrors.