Let me start this review by saying thanks to the marketing department at Summit films. For the first time in a long time, the brilliant trailers for this film sold the story without laying the story out beat by beat. They didn’t ruin the surprises this film has in store in the second and third acts.
I am going to try to stay with that same ethic and be as spoiler free as I can because this film is best experienced with as little information going in as possible.
By now, the story is fairly well known from the trailers.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Captain Colter Stevens, a decorated soldier in the war in Afghanistan who wakes up on a train with the face of a stranger in the mirror and no idea of how he got there.
He is in the Source Code. A computer program that allows a person to experience the last eight minutes of a persons life who has died recently.
As the story unfolds, Capt. Stevens learns that the train he is on was blown up and this bombing was the first in a new wave of attacks on Chicago. Unless Capt. Stevens can figure out who the bomber is and relay that information back to Goodwin, the agent in charge of the Source Code program, the bomber is going to detonate a much larger, possibly nuclear bomb in downtown Chicago.
Also, though he can keep reliving the last eight minutes on board the doomed train, time in the real world ticks ever onward towards the coming explosion, so there is a quite literal ticking clock that propels the story forward and compels Capt. Stevens to finish the job as soon as possible.
What that brief synopsis doesn’t tell you is how effective this all is. It doesn’t convey the details that make or break a story like this.
This film feels like one of the best film adaptations of a story Phillip K Dick never wrote. It has that same hard science fiction feel of a world done correctly that Minority Report and Blade Runner had.
That’s not to say that this film is anything like those films, it’s not. It’s just in the small details that hold the worlds together that these films share a bond.
Jake Gyllenhaal has never been better. This could be his finest role and I completely bought the confusion and dread he feels as he is pulled from his life into the life of this doomed train and the people on it.
Michelle Monaghan is also good in the thankless role of Cristina, the sweet natured and distractingly beautiful woman who sits across from him on the train and who he shares a flirtation with that becomes more tragic as he realizes that he can’t really save her or anyone else on the train, as Goodwin, played wonderfully by Vera Farminga, keeps reminding him, the source code is not a time machine, only a sort of playback of those final minutes.
After thinking about what I’m going to type next, I’ve decided that even though I’m not going to spoil this films surprises for you, I am going to issue a massive SPOILER WARNING for what’s next just on basic principle.
The best way to see this film is to walk in cold with as little knowledge as possible, but if you’re reading this, you do want to know a little something, so I’m going to split the difference.
Still with me?
This is better. We didn’t need those “other’ people with us anyway.
Okay, they keep telling Colter that he can’t change anything, except we notice right away that he can.
Each time he enters the source code and wakes up on the train, he DOES change things. Little things. Things that would seem to be of no consequence, but changes none the less.
Each time, for instance, his dialog with Cristina changes. He interacts with the other passengers in different ways, changing their behavior.
Now if you know anything about Quantum Mechanics or if you’ve been watching FRINGE in the last couple of years, you will probably see where this story is going early.
For me, it was at the 44 minute mark. I’m not bragging, I’m just stating that I do hold a special place in my heart for the film “What the %^*@ do we know? Down the rabbit hole” and if you dare, you can Google that film and you will get a better clue as to what’s really happening in this film.
That being said, I liked where they went. It felt like they earned the ending they give us. There is a freeze frame near the end that you’re going to think is the end and if I were a betting man, I would say it was the ending the writer originally wanted. Once the film starts again you know you’re in the area of a Hollywood ending.
The strange thing is, I didn’t mind at all.
The ending I got was the ending I wanted. Take that however you like.
Director Duncan Jones’ last film was the brilliant and sparse “Moon” with the great Sam Rockwell. It was a Kubrician film in a lot of way. Cold and austere like the masters work, but still with a strange humanity buried inside that came to light in the final minutes.
In a lot of ways, Source Code is the same way, except with more of a commercial heart than Moon.
I’m not sure if Source Code is an Art house action film or an Action film with a brain. Maybe it’s both.
The script is tight and the dialog is crisp and real. It races by at a brisk 92 minutes and is a hell of a ride for the whole journey.
Maybe later on, once the film has been out for a while, I’ll write another piece about the film, less a review and more of a deconstruction of the film. There is a lot in there to chew on and it will be nice to talk about the film with some other people who’ve seen it.
As I left the theater today as the film ended, all over the theater there were people sitting in their seats at the credits rolled just talking to each other about the film.
That in itself should tell you something.
I give It 5 out of 5.
Until next time, keep the projector threaded.