When deciding whether to watch Source Code, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re a fan of Inception; this is a similar kind of tense, intelligent film in the sci-fi space. Ask yourself also if you enjoyed Groundhog Day, in which the protagonist had to relive the same 24 hours over and over again till he learnt his lesson. If the answer to both questions is yes, chances are you’ll enjoy this complex but fast-paced science-fiction thriller that combines the best bits of both those brilliant films.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Army pilot Colter Stevens who, after blacking out in Afghanistan, awakes inside the body of another man – a schoolteacher named Sean Fentress – on a Chicago commuter train. Eight minutes later when a terrorist bomb blows up the train, he wakes up again to find himself in some sort of space capsule, communicating by monitor with a national security officer (played by Vera Farmiga). She explains to him that he’s part of a “time reassignment” program whereby his mind has been projected into the body of that commuter. This program will repeatedly send him back into the same train to relive the last eight minutes before the blast, so he can uncover the identity of the bomber and thus stop another possible terrorist attack later the same day.
It’s a far-fetched premise, but director Duncan Jones treats it as realistically as possible, especially the events on the train and the interactions between passengers. He gives us characters we can care about, like Christine (played by Michelle Monaghan), who’s sitting across from Gyllenhaal’s character in the train, and whom he comes to deeply care for. Vera Farmiga’s character too leaves an indelible impression, her initial bureaucratic abruptness slowly softening into compassion for the troubled hero.
The film keeps you completely engaged because it’s constructed around a fascinating concept, but more so because of its super-smart script that is always one step ahead of you. Held together by a fine performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, who combines vulnerability with strong determination, Source Code works despite its puzzling climax because it’s a film that keeps you on your toes, and urges you to think.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Source Code; it’s not perfect, but it’s very good fun while you’re in your seat!