Friday, April 01, 2011

Jake’s on a Train: “Source Code” is a Highly Inventive Sci-Fi Thriller

“What would you do if you knew you only had eight minutes to live?”

It’s hard to imagine a movie being released that is as original as “Source Code.” It’s not based on any previously published material and it’s not a remake or reimagining. It’s a wholly original piece of mind-bending science fiction; and it’s pretty darn clever. It hardly takes a wrong step in it’s 94 minute runtime although I imagine some being slightly irked by the film’s final moments, which, to me, I could take or leave. Those out there who have been seeking something original and fresh since last summer’s imaginative blockbuster “Inception” should get their fill here. As long as you don’t mind watching a movie that’s sort of strange mix of “The Matrix,” “Twelve Monkeys,” and “Groundhog Day.”

“Source Code” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who is able to relive the final eight minutes of another man’s life, over and over again. This man was on a Chicago-bound commuter train that happened to be blown up by a terrorist’s bomb killing everyone onboard. This film exists in a present day world where scientists have actually invented a way for someone to relive the last moments of a person’s life. Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is given the task to relive the passenger’s final moments over and over again in hopes of finding the person responsible for nuking the train, as the government is aware that this person is about to blow up the entire city of Chicago next. The less said about the rest of the plot the better; it benefit anyone who plans on actually seeing the film.

It’s a wildly unbelievable premise and yet you totally buy into it. There are many questions the audience is faced with that slowly make themselves known. Like how does this technology actually work? And why was Stevens the person chosen for this assignment? And what the heck is a Source Code anyways? Stevens is located in some kind of enclosed pod, which sort of reminded me of the device Jodie Foster gets strapped into in the end of “Contact.” Don’t worry; there are no aliens to be found in “Source Code.” What is great about movies like this that are done right, is even though we must watch the same event over and over again, you’re never bored and each time something unique happens. Stevens gets closer and closer to solving the film’s curious mysteries. The film works as a thriller, and even though we know the train will explode every eight minutes, the suspense is built up for maximum effect.

I haven’t seen director Duncan Jones’ previous directorial effort “Moon” although I’ve heard some rave reviews. It seems as though Jones is fully intrigued by the introspective sci-fi genre and is great at building great character development. We learn so much about Stevens as the film progresses and that is due to Gyllenhaal’s terrific acting abilities and a very strong script from Ben Ripley, whose previous efforts strangely include two direct to video “Species” sequels. Ripley’s script is extremely taut and it brings up so many fascinating issues you’ll most likely be thinking about the film long after it’s ended. The film is filled with great supporting performances from Michelle Monaghan as a fellow train passenger, Vera Farmiga as a military woman giving instructions to Stevens, and Jeffrey Wright as the source code’s creator.

“Source Code” is a twisty, thrilling action flick. It has suspense and it’ll make you think. It’s smartly written, acted and directed and is certainly one of the better films to be released this year. It’ll constantly keep you guessing right up until the end… oh that ending. GRADE: B+

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