Review: Source Code
It’s the same train, but it’s different
Groundhog Day by way of Strangers on a Train, Duncan Jones’ Source Code is a hybrid of sci-fi and mystery. Seeking to dazzle with its out there concept, it also looks to conceal its many mysteries with smoke and mirrors too.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s (brilliantly named) Colter Stevens wakes up in a body not his own, his task is to find the identity of the person who bombed a Chicago commuter train before he strikes again and each time he enters the Source Code he has only eight minutes to so.
The first act is a dazzling, deliberately mystifying opening that presents a lot of questions. The rules of space and time are casually done away with as Stevens inhabits the body of person who, for all intents and purposes is dead. The concept could potentially sustain the film, but Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley decide to include a romance that does not quite convince.
Re-introducing fellow train passenger Michelle Monaghan’s Christina Warren as a love interest adds emotional stakes, but the primary issue with is resetting it every eight minutes. Although use of the source code pans out to be slightly different each time, we’re never given enough time with Stevens and Christine to invest in a relationship that’s little more than a flight of fancy on Steven’s behalf.
While Monaghan’s presence radiates a sense of decency, apart from her boyfriend troubles and talk of aspirations. there’s not much character there, which is not Monaghan’s fault. Apart from Colter, no other character is that interesting. Christina is an idea, a construct that Colter desperately wants to believe in and the viewer is meant to have the same expectations, but we need to see more of Christine to fully invest in it.
The (literal) ticking time bomb situation creates enough tension and interest, though its undone by the surprising manner in which the bomber is revealed, which is something of an afterthought.
Disappointing then as Source Code brings up a number of moral and speculative ideas but treats its terrorism subplot in a manner that lacks subtlety.
Source Code entertains with enough smarts to compensate for its more problematic issues. It shows promise for the future, as Jones handles this high concept with intelligence.