- Running time:
- 93 minutes
- Jake Gyllenhaal -
- Colter Stevens
- Michelle Monaghan -
- Vera Farmiga -
- Jeffrey Wright -
- Brent Skagford -
Rank and file military man Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in someone else’s body—eight minutes before the man dies in a terrorist attack that wipes out an entire Chicago commuter train. It’s part of a military experiment conceived by Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) that allows Colter to return to those eight minutes again and again in order to piece together who was behind the attack and prevent another from happening. Helping Colter keep his bearings are military point person Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and a fellow passenger on the train, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who inspires a modification in the mission.
The buzz: Director Duncan Jones made an impressive debut with 2009’s sci-fi indie “Moon.” Now he follows up with a bigger budgeted action-oriented sci-fi thriller that was planned as a vehicle for Gyllenhaal before Jones even came aboard. The idea started with screenwriter Ben Ripley, whose previous credits include two direct-to-DVD “Species” sequels.
The verdict: A perfect antidote to the silly overreaching of recent sci-fi disappointment “The Adjustment Bureau,” “Source Code” offers 90 minutes of tightly plotted intrigue. As the film opens, Colter doesn’t know anything more about the experiment than the audience does, and Gyllenhaal delivers his best performance in years as our guide through the dueling mysteries of what happened on the train and what’s happening to Colter. He gets strong back-up from the exemplary trio of Farmiga, Monaghan and Wright—who each use limited screen time to transform stock action thriller roles into richer, more interesting characters. Although “Source Code” doesn’t have the same depth or artistry as “Moon,” Jones changes up his game and veers toward the crowd-pleasing territory of Hitchcock and Spielberg, proving his promise and versatility in the process. Sci-fi fans will find plenty to chew on in the film’s depictions of time travel and parallel realities, while those seeking topical themes can dig into the idea of a military man on a dubious mission learning to question his commands. “Source Code” is smart yet simple enough to work on several levels. That’s a trick worth repeating.
Did you know? Scott Bakula’s vocal cameo in a pivotal phone conversation is an intentional homage to “Quantum Leap,” which Jones considers a direct influence on the body jumping storyline of “Source Code.”