Bill Murray Never Stopped a Train Bombing

Source Code (April 1, 2011)     3.5/5

Directed by Duncan Jones (Summit Entertainment)

A man wakes up on a train.  He is sitting across from a woman.   She calls him by a different name.  Eight minutes later the train explodes.  And at that point, army pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up.  Strapped in an odd sort of dome, a woman (Vera Farmiga) appears onscreen.  She explains that Stevens must locate the bomber on that train.  Earlier, that train exploded as it headed straight toward Chicago.  That has already been done; it cannot be changed.  But what Stevens can accomplish through the “Source Code” program is identify the bomber, prompting the feds to grab him before he does it again.  And that moment is coming soon. So Stevens must be plopped into that train for those eight minutes again and again to accomplish his mission, as well as find out what the hell is exactly going on here.

Unlike Vantage Point, a film that used similar repetition formula, the multiple trials in Source Code are quite intriguing, allowing attention to detail to provoke key plot points that are not completely obvious (or ridiculous).  Overall, the twists are very well conceived, and by the third act, we trust the film enough to buy into its peachiness about the value of human life.  This faith is strengthened by Gyllenhaal, who like the rest of the performers, doesn’t show anything particularly sensational here, but does provide a sort of likability and warmth to his role. This feeling, of course, is typical from protagonists who are as much in the dark as we are.  Because of this aspect, as Stevens begins to question the possibilities of the Source Code, we follow him every step of the way.  This all culminates in a conclusion that is somewhat predictable (and oddly elongated), but satisfying nonetheless.

Duncan Jones, the son of glam hero David Bowie, provided a terrific revival of thinking man’s science-fiction with 2009’s thoughtful, allegorical, and rather awesome Moon.  Needless to say, Jones’ first mainstream film isn’t nearly as good.  But despite Source Code’s conventional use of sentimentality, the humanity still works, although differently from the way it did in Moon.  Here, like the similarly plotted Groundhog Day, it works through romance, trading what it lacks in spark for its effectiveness to the plot.  Stevens’ relationship with that woman on the train, played by Monaghan, is at the core of the film, and ultimately, it provides steadiness through all the plot holes.  But don’t worry about those.  There’s no time to think about them.  Like the best popcorn entertainment, Source Code is a sleek piece of  work – fast, funny, thrilling, smart, and thankfully, not too long.  Although there is little lingering effect, it sure is an enjoyable ride.

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