Source Code is a movie; it’s the second directorial effort from Duncan Jones.

Source Code is a science fiction film involving time travel from director Duncan Jones and writer Ben Ripley.

Source Code is a movie about time travel that reopens that classic sci-fi debate about destiny vs free will. It’s about a solider trying to stop a bomb.

Source Code is a film that uses a repeating, Groundhog Day-style narrative to tell the story of a soldier trapped within a time loop, trying to stop a bombing. He re-lives the last 8 minutes of a train journey that ended when a massive explosion ripped through the entire train killing everyone on board, finding out a little more about it every time.

Source Code is a sci-fi film which opens with Captain Colter Stevens waking with a start on a packed commuter train. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. The woman sitting opposite him seems to know him, but insists on calling him Shaun. Colter understandably panics, rushing to the rest room, only to find he has the reflection of a different person; which really freaks him out! Fortunately for our hero, his freak out is quickly brought to an end. Unfortunately, that end is a massive bomb which rips the train apart killing everyone on board. The film is director Duncan Jones’ second after his low-budget hit Moon.

Source Code is a time travel movie which begins with Captain Colter Stevens waking with a start on a packed commuter train. His confusion is brought to an end by a massive explosion. However, he then awakes again on a train. He’s even more confused this time as firstly; this is exactly the same train as before with all the same passengers and secondly; between the bomb exploding and waking up again, he found himself trapped in a tiny capsule talking to military officer Colleen Goodwin. She explains that Stevens is the subject of a highly experimental technology known as Source Code. This system allows the US military to send a subject a back in time to re-live 8 minutes of someone else’s life. Stevens is being sent back into the body of Sean Fentress – a passenger among the several hundred who died in a terrorist attack on a commuter train. However, Stevens’s mission is not to stop the train bombing. He is told that he cannot do this; it has already happened. Instead he must find out who committed the bombing as they have threatened a much larger attack in the city in a few hours time. It’s a tightly told story from director Duncan Jones, which again uses science fiction to explore ideas of human identity without losing sight of plot; much like his debut feature last year.

Source Code is a Pandora’s Box that uses the repeating structure of Captain Colter Stevens waking with a start on a packed commuter train to weave its interesting tale in bite sized chunks. Each trip through the 8 minutes, Stevens discovers a little more about the bombing and the wider plot and each time, he makes (and for him, at least builds) a bond with fellow traveller Christina Warren. There’s an inherent risk in this kind of film that things quickly get repetitive, for obvious reasons. One of the film’s direct influences; Groundhog Day was able to intersperse the story with repetitions where the main character simply kills himself in a humorous way. The writer Ben Ripley hasn’t afforded himself such luxuries in Source Code, due to the ticking clock premise going on in the real world – a second attack is imminent; so each loop must move either the plot forward or enhance the characters. Jones works incredibly hard to avoid any fatigue in this premise but its simply unavoidable that some repetitions of the 8 minutes have to go down complete dead ends, just to pad out the running time.

Source Code is a film that does not contain any dinosaurs. It is not directed by Christopher Nolan.

Source Code is a movie that weaves some great performances into a repeating narrative structure using the idea of time travel. As Captain Colter Stevens, the soldier that continually wakes with a start on a packed commuter train, Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent. He captures the confusion caused both by the events around him and (for possibly the first time in his life) questioning the orders of a superior officer. Christina Warren, the girl Stevens builds a bond with is played by Michelle Monaghan. It’s a difficult role as Warren must evolve during the film and yet always reset to the same starting point for each loop of the 8 minutes. Monaghan’s performance and her chemistry with Gyllenhaal is very believable and an important part of why the characters work so well. Perhaps the strongest performance in the entire film is that of Vera Farmiga as Colleen Goodwin, Colter’s commanding officer. She’s wonderful, first as the straight-faced voice of authority who manages to make a significant amount of plot exposition palatable. But later, as the cold military facade starts to crack, we see real caring and humanity in her performance. The only minor bum note in a top notch cast is Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Rutledge – the inventor of Source Code. His performance is a full slice of ham not really fitting with the more realistic believable characters around him. He is asked to be something of a panto villain at times and in this he’s more than happy to oblige. Whether this was always in writer Ben Ripley’s script or was built upon during filming is unclear, but it’s a shame director Duncan Jones didn’t rein Wright in just a bit.

Source Code is more than an extended episode of the Twilight Zone. Despite its simple premise of a solider trapped in a time loop of 8 minutes trying to stop a bombing, the film grows beyond these limitations thanks to its wonderful central characters and evolving sense of dread. I found the ending a little disappointing as Hollywood convention managed to seep in but that shouldn’t take away from an excellent film. If you can accept the structure and rules of the film, I think you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from it: a good test is whether the repetition at the start of this review irritated you or not. For his second feature film, director Duncan Jones has successfully shown he can step up in budget and scope without losing the big ideas that made his debut stand out. I look forward to his next endeavour – as long as he doesn’t repeat himself of course!

Jim

See if you can spot the cameo voice playing Colter Steven’s father. It’s not too obvious, but if you look out for it, I think you’ll make the “leap”