Theatrical Review: Source Code

A school teacher named Sean Fentress wakes from a disturbing sleep on board a train.  He’s sitting across from his friend an attractive woman named Christina Warren.  Christina’s engaging Sean in some banter, but he’s hugely disoriented.  He believes himself to be an Air Force Captain named Colter Stevens and with immediate memories of being in combat.  He scurries about the train, trying to figure out why he’s there, all to Christina’s amusement.  Then, within moments, the train explodes.

This same man then awakens within some sort of capsule.  He’s being addressed as Captain Colter Stevens by an officer on the other end of a communications station named Collen Goodwin.  Goodwin is asking Stevens about his mission and whether he’s found the bomb that is onboard this train.  Stevens is just as confused about his situation now as he was moments ago.  He’s being informed that he’s about to be sent back to the train and as it was previously, he only has eight minutes to find out what he can.

That’s the opening sequences in the newest movie from director Duncan Jones called Source Code. Previously, Duncan Jones made the excellent low budget science fiction film Moon with a tour-de-force performance from actor Sam Rockwell.  With Source Code, Jones shows us that lightning does indeed strike twice.  This is the best movie I’ve seen this year thus far.

Though my description of the opening is vague about all that’s really happening, Jones and writer Ben Ripley, do indeed reveal all as this unfolds.  They do it in such a way that only little bits and pieces are revealed as the movie moves along, always keeping their audience on their toes.  This is a hard science fiction movie that never talks down to it’s audience right up to it’s very surprising ending.

I’d expect that the budget for Source Code is quite a bit more than it was for Moon though still significantly smaller than other Hollywood movies.  Regardless of that, this looks terrific.  It’s very well shot and it’s pace is extremely brisk.  The action is all punctuated with a terrific score from composer Chris Bacon who right from the start almost seems to be channeling the late great Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann.  This score makes this feel like Source Code would be the sort of science fiction movie that Alfred Hitchcock would make, if he made science fiction films.

That’s high praise indeed, and I think Jones and his crew deserve every little bit they can get.

When he made Moon it offered actor Sam Rockwell a chance to really put his skills to work.  Jones has a bigger cast with Source Code and while they don’t necessarily get the same chance that Rockwell had with Moon they’re still excellent here.

Jake Gyllenhaal leads the cast as Colter Stevens and he’s fantastic.  Stevens is smart and charismatic and we want him to win the day.  That’s all to Gyllenhaal’s credit.  Michelle Monaghan plays Christina and the way she plays her, it’s obvious from the start why Colter Stevens would be attracted and want to do all he can for her.  Vera Farmiga plays Goodwin and I’ve been a big fan of her’s for awhile now, ever since seeing her with Paul Walker in Running Scared. She does not disappoint her playing an obviously disciplined officer who still becomes wrapped up in Stevens’ plight.  Jeffrey Wright plays Dr. Rutledge, the creator of the Source Code system. Wright handles the part with cool confidence.  One nice little extra in the casting is Scott Bakula as the voice of Stevens’ father during a brief phone conversation.  As what’s really happening to Stevens becomes revealed, this little bit of casting is a nice nod to fans of Bakula’s old television series, Quantum Leap.

I absolutely loved Source Code and look forward to seeing it again down the road.  Source Code is smart and engaging science fiction with surprises at every turn and terrific performances from four actors at their prime.  I can’t wait to see what Duncan Jones does next.  Don’t miss this…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

03. April 2011 by Darren Goodhart
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