Duncan Jones, the son of David Bowie, made his filmmaking debut with the growing cult classic “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell as a lonely astronaut who finds another version of himself near the end of his three year shift on the moon. “Source Code”, Jones’ sophomore film, also expands on time and identity in an entirely different premise. Jake Gyllenhall stars as Captain Colter Stevens , a recently deceased Afghanistan war veteran, who is resurrected in a program called “Source Code” and is assigned to find the terrorist who planted a bomb on a locomotive, commuter train bound for Chicago. He wakes up in the body of George Troxel, a schoolteacher, talking with his lady friend Christina Warren, played with exotic charm by Michelle Monaghan. His mission is to find out who planted the bomb to prevent a larger bomb threat that will occur later in the day in downtown Chicago.
Combining conceits from “Speed” (a bomb on public transportation) with “Groundhog Day” (relieving the same day over and over again), and upon further reflection, a dozen other influences, from The Twilight Zone to The Matrix, Source Code doesn’t waste any time with its preposterous plot, which at times is confusing and aimless, and probably could be a mini series a-la 24, but the film clocks in at a light 87 minutes. Although the premise is inspired by a multitude of other works, which could easily have sent the film into sci-fi parody to which the product would be a forgetful, worthless ripoff, Source Code is a wonderful, action-packed sci-fi thriller that is a delightful exception. It is a smart, mindbending film that works well because of the collaboration of all the players. Gyllenhall is believable and charming in his action role while allowing the audience to empathize with his plight, Jones has considerable talent behind the camera, and Ripley’s tight-knitted script is well-written and wastes no scenes on useless exposition or corny sub-plots.
In each simulation, Stevens has exactly eight minutes to gain more information from the colorful characters on the train, which range from stand-up comedians, anti-social hipsters, college students, and boring, everyday commuters. After the eight minutes are up, which ends with the explosion of the locomotive, Stevens is thrust back into his barren, Matrix-like existence, a small biosphere where he communicates his findings to Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and to the inventor of Source Code, Dr. Rutledge, played with reserved intelligence by the talented Jeffrey Wright.
Source Code demands your attention and your intelligence. Bring a cup of coffee and turn on your brains when watching this film. If your attention wanders, or you miss a minute of it by taking a bathroom break, you’ll probably be completely lost for the rest of the film. It is on the list of a few other sci-fi films that need a second viewing for new discoveries.