Written by: Ben Ripley
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, Jeffrey Wright
Duncan Jones made some serious waves in 2009 with his debut film Moon, an instant classic that saw Sam Rockwell living in isolation on a space station on the moon. Needless to say, the pressure on his sophomore output is extreme. For his second film, Jones chose Ben Ripley’s Source Code. It is easy to see why the script caught his attention and I’m pleased to say that his hands were most certainly the right place to put it.
Source Code begins on a train. Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes up to find himself in transit, sitting across from a beautiful stranger, Christina, who seems to know him. She calls him Sean, but that’s not his name. She is familiar and behaves as if they are old friends and perhaps something more. Colter panics and is completely confused by what’s going on and as Christina tries to calm him, the train explodes. Colter wakes up in a dark room, bound, with Vera Farmiga’s earnest but friendly face peering at him from a computer screen. She explains that he is connected to a computer programme, Source Code, that will allow him to relive the last eight minutes of another man’s life. This man, Sean, died in a train bomb attack. Colter must use his time on the train to investigate what is going on and try to deduce who the terrorists are so that he can give the information to the military in the hope that they can prevent the rest of the series of threatened attacks.
The less said about what happens next the better. A generic twist on Groundhog Day, the story changes direction many times as it progresses and gives the audience not only a brilliantly plotted mystery but also a clever back story. Both the central bomb storyline and the story of Colter Stevens journey to the Source Code are equally interesting and deftly woven together, keeping the story tight and the action gripping.
The pressure is on for Gyllenhaal to prove he’s up to the dual role of intellectual leading man and action hero. He balances brains and brawn nicely and there’s something touchingly human about his huge eyes staring from his gaunt face that raises this film to a level about most films of its ilk. His performance is affecting on a human level and believable on a physical level. Given that he is on screen for almost the whole film he is commendable here as a character to invest in. There’s something in Gyllenhaals boyish grin that makes him a vulnerable everyman, even when he’s in action mode and this is extremely important in getting the audience to invest emotionally when the time comes. In all the action and mayhem, the quiet, more profound moments are given to us by Michelle Monaghan as an innocent bystander caught up in the plot and tragically destined to die and Vera Farmiga playing a solider caught between her head and her heart. Both give the film warmth against a cold, clinical backdrop of a train and a military facility.
Source Code is a hugely ambitious thriller that many will accuse of thinking it’s cleverer than it is. I don’t think that's the case at all. The twists in the film aren’t ground-breaking but they aren’t played to shock, they are provided as a means of telling this story in the most entertaining, emotive and intelligent way possible. And for my money, it worked! As mainstream action-thrillers go, this is top notch. Enjoyable on many levels and if you’re not into the self-important undertones that belie the story, just enjoy it for its excitement, its commendable writing and skilled performances.