‘Source Code’ takes audience for ride

Justin Marietti

When Duncan Jones’ directorial debut “Moon” became an instant sci-fi cult classic, he was finally acknowledged for more than just being David Bowie’s son. Critics and fans alike have been eagerly anticipating the director’s most recent work, “The Source Code,” and I believe it’s been well worth the wait.

Both “Moon” and “The Source Code” are drenched in science fiction, yet they are more accurately described as brilliant and highly dramatic thrillers. Another striking similarity is that both films are about a man in a very difficult situation, trying to do the best he can with the limited resources he has.

Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train, unaware of how he got there or why Christina (Monaghan) seems to think she knows him. His confusion leads to paranoia, and when he goes to the restroom to assess the situation he notices that his reflection isn’t his own. As if things weren’t bad enough already, the entire train explodes.

The dramatic pull of Stevens’ character draws the viewer in. I felt like I was sharing in his confusion, but at no point was I bothered by that. I wanted him to find a solution, to slowly put the pieces of this puzzle together. For a movie with very little character development throughout, it would seem difficult to create a protagonist that the viewer wants to relate to. But the utter chaos and mystery of the situation successfully compensates for such an undeveloped main character.

When Stevens wakes up after the explosion, he is in some sort of capsule, and his contact, Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga), informs him that what he just experienced is not a simulation. With a program called “The Source Code,” Stevens is in control of a passenger on that actual train, and he must figure out who the bomber is so he can prevent the bomber from detonating a “dirty bomb” (or, radioactive) in the heart of the city. Goodwin says that time is limited, and discovering that the identity of the bomber is all that matters; everything else is irrelevant.

The program’s biggest weakness is that it only lasts for the eight remaining minutes of the subject’s life. However, each time that Stevens is back on the train, the results are a little different, and he learns a little more. Eventually, he understands just how limited his time is, and needs to make the most of every moment he has.

Stevens goes through a sort of evolution or coming of age as the film progresses. I felt that this was the underlying theme of the movie, and not the sci-fi technology that makes the whole thing work. There are plenty of sci-fi fans who feel the need to dissect the science involved in films and dig for contradictions and loopholes, and such fans may have a problem with this movie. But I think doing such things defeats the purpose of watching movies in the first place. “The Source Code” is highly entertaining from start to finish, regardless of any technicalities it may have.

This movie has been compared to a vast array of other films, although I find many of them to be somewhat shallow and streamlined comparisons. A great example would be “Groundhog Day.” Despite the obvious parallels, the two have little in common (and Jake Gyllenhaal is certainly no Bill Murray). I admit that this movie reminded me of a great deal of others, such as “Déjà Vu,” “The Bourne Identity,” “Speed” and the TV show “Quantum Leap.” However, “The Source Code” is the embodiment of the best parts of these films tied together in one unrelenting joyride. I definitely recommend this film, and I think it’s safe to say that Jones will be a mainstay in Hollywood for some time to come.