- Released: Wednesday, 04 May 2011
- Runtime: 93 mins.
ReviewThis thriller, science-fiction film is absorbing and clever in its direction, and will not disappoint those looking for mystery and deft action. Conceptually, also, it intrigues.
In the film, Jake Gyllenhaal takes the part of an army helicopter pilot, Captain Colter Stevens, rewarded for bravery, who is recruited to locate a bomber on a train headed to Chicago. He has died in action, but a part of his brain has been kept alive. He exists in a chamber or Pod where Air Force Officer, Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) explains through a computer that he is inside the Source Code, a program that permits him to take over someone's else's mind and body in the last eight minutes of their life. The Source Code allows one to re-visit the past and to re-arrange the future. Stevens' mission is to find out all that he can about the bomb that has been planted on the train, which always detonates and kills everyone on board. He is to report back to Goodwin before the same bomber can explode a second, nuclear, device which is programmed to kill millions of people in Chicago.
Stevens enters the Source Code repeatedly to collect vital information about the bomber. He does not remember joining the project, and he is told that he cannot save any of the lives of the people on the train. Whenever he enters the Source Code, Stevens wakes up on board as Sean Fentress, a teacher. Fentress is a man Stevens never knew, and he begins to form an attachment to Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), the person sitting opposite him on the train. Each time Stevens discovers more information as Fentress, he deepens his attachment to Christina. When the train explodes at the end of eight minutes, Sean Fentress and Christina always die, sending Stevens back into the chamber from which he started. After repeated visits to the doomed train, Stevens resolves that he wants to save Christina and the people on the train if he can, so defying the original purpose and function of the Source Code.
Chicago is saved with the information Stevens collects, but he persuades Goodwin to send him back to the train one more time to try and avert the train's explosion, and to recue Christina. Using the information he has already collected through previous entries, Stevens is able to defuse the bomb on his last visit, and capture the terrorist-bomber before the train explodes. When Goodwin turns off his life-support at his request, as soon as the eight minutes are up, Stevens stays behind and leaves the train with Christina and the other passengers. The Source Code has worked better than Goodwin, or the Source Code's creator (Jeffrey Wright) had ever imagined. Stevens and Christina stay together, but is their togetherness real, or not? Is it Fentress, or Stevens, who escapes? The viewer can't be sure.
This is a smart, briskly paced sci-fi drama, where the human aspects of the story-line don't lose out to the explosive action. Despite its thriller aspects, it is also a mind game in which the possibilities of an alternative reality constantly challenge the viewer. With the turns and twists of its plot, the film is a little like "Inception" (2010), which also cleverly structured and re-structured reality. The repeated takes on similar scenes make the film's plot a little complicated, and this begins to weigh the movie down, but its direction consistently manages to sustain attention. And Gyllenhaal's charm reliably helps.
The movie's tag line, "every second counts" suitably sums up an imaginative and suspenseful thriller. The film deliberately contrasts itself with the negatives that surround a world in which terrorism survives, and its conceptual possibilities keep us guessing well after the final credits roll by.