Duncan Jones’s second film, Source Code, explores one of the most fundamental questions human beings face; What would you do differently if you could do it all again?
Colter Stevens, (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a US Army helicopter pilot whose last memory is coming under heavy fire in Afghanistan. When he awakens, he finds himself in another man’s body on a train. Eight minutes later the train explodes, killing Stevens and the other passengers onboard. Short movie.
Or maybe not. Stevens finds himself back in his own body, encased in what looks like a cockpit, with a US army Captain, Captain Goodwin, explaining to him that he must go back and find out who planted and detonated the bomb that caused the train explosion.
The film’s main premise is established from here. Gyllenhaal must repeatedly live the last eight minutes of Sean Fentress’ life, (the passenger he “possessed”), in order to discover the identity of the bomber, who has planted a nuclear device somewhere in Chicago and plans to detonate it. Stevens is told he cannot save the passengers but he can save the residents of Chicago from nuclear disaster. Jeffrey Wright stars as Dr. Rutledge, the brains behind the Source Code simulator.
The romantic interest is provided by fellow passenger Christina Warren, (Michelle Monaghan), whom Stevens falls for little by little as he re-enters the simulator.
His priorities shift from identifying the bomber to stopping the train attack in order to save Christina.
The film is hugely ambitious in its premise, something to be admired even if the ending doesn’t fully realise that ambition. It mixes Gyllenhaal’s journey to remember what happened to him in Afghanistan with the bomb plot, finding room for emotional charge in such an action-packed subject.
Gyllenhaal lends great presence to the role and he goes through the full gamut of emotions here, displaying an acting range perhaps not fully showcased since Donnie Darko and certainly not in his previous offering, Love and Other Drugs.
The other real star of the show is Captain Goodwin, (Vera Farmiga), with the idea of humanity versus science explored throughout the relationship between Gyllenhaal and her own character. Farmiga proves herself every bit as capable as Gyllenhaal with a range of emotions expressed in minimalist style.
The ending feels slightly like a cop-out with a clunky visual metaphor, but the film deserves credit for its ambition and star turns from Gyllenhaal and Farmiga. Superb acting, however, takes the film to another level.
By Damien Edgar