So what exactly is the source code? As one character relates, “it would take weeks to explain,” and time is something in short supply in this movie. On a morning commuter train traveling into Chicago, Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) jolts up from a little snooze to find he doesn’t know where he is. His seatmate, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), keeps calling him Sean and his reflection in the train’s window reveals a different face.
About eight minutes later, the train explodes and Stevens is ripped back into another reality where a woman named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) informs him he is part of a top secret mission to figure out who bombed the train that morning before the same person can set off a dirty bomb in downtown Chicago. As Stevens sits in some kind of capsule communicating remotely with Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), the creator of the technology, words like “parabolic physics” are thrown around as they try to explain how it works. Hint: It’s not so much time travel as it is time reassignment. Don’t worry, you won’t really understand it, and all you need to know is Stevens only has eight minutes at a time to identify the bad guy before they all get blown to kingdom come again and he gets sucked back to the lab.
If this sounds familiar, it is sort of “Groundhog Day” with a terrorist instead of a fun-loving weatherman. But don’t discount it. Director Duncan Jones has crafted a taut thriller with an unrelenting sense of urgency that carries the film all the way to its preposterous conclusion — the only weak link in an otherwise solid movie. It’s a given you will have to suspend disbelief to enjoy all “Source Code” has to offer, which is mainly Gyllenhaal’s performance as the desperate soldier who, once he understands his involvement and his mission, is willing to do what it takes to find the bomber among hundreds of passengers.
Gyllenhaal is an actor who sometimes gets by on his charm, but here he is focused and driven as a career soldier with the assignment of his life. As Stevens, he is in virtually every scene and ably carries the movie on his broad shoulders.
Jones does a credible job of obscuring details like who the bomber is and drawing out the revelations of the freaky nature of what makes the source code possible. There is an almost immediate understanding something is not quite right about it all. Goodwin’s facial expressions give it away as she finds herself increasingly at odds with Rutledge’s agenda and all the while time is running out.
This director also understands the static nature of his sets, namely a train car and a control center, and uses inventive camera shots and a dash of creativity to occasionally give the audience a breather from the prevailing claustrophobia. Production aspects are also first rate.
It’s advisable not to dwell too much on the source of the code; just sit back and enjoy it.
Musical at Tinseltown
Fathom Events has an upcoming special at Tinseltown worth noting. At the end of the month on Thursday, April 28, the hit Broadway musical “Memphis” will come to Tinseltown. Filmed specifically as a theatrical special event, this is your chance to see the widely acclaimed Broadway show up close. For more information as well as a full schedule, go to fathomevents.com.