Movie Review: Source Code

Whenever humankind finally finds a time machine, they will not go back in time to see what the past was like. They will probably just use it to make their own lives better. Or perhaps one good person will use it to make the world better.

Time travel might not be the best phrase to put in with “Source Code,” but it’s the most relatable one I could come up with. Maybe it’s time travel, mixed with a little mind travel. That is the most I can give away, without spoiling it. Even with its small flaws, “Source Code” is by far one of the most satisfying mainstream thrillers playing in theaters.

“Source Code” is the second feature length film by Duncan Jones, who made quite a debut with 2009′s “Moon.” “Source Code” represents the same independent principles he set up with “Moon,” but geared toward a wider audience. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a soldier who has unwittingly been sent back on a train in order to diffuse a bomb onboard. While attempting to stop a terrorist attack, he discovers some terrible secrets about himself, and forms an unlikely love (Michelle Monaghan).

“Source Code” asked much more from me intellectually than I was expecting. Then again, maybe that was my fault for second guessing the director of “Moon.” I do not use this to speak negatively of “Source Code” though: a film like this is a relief in a world that gives us films such as “Fast Five.” It employs the classic “government agency with a mind-altering device” sci-fi premise mixed with a 21st century thriller about defeating terrorism.

If only I could’ve seen “Source Code” before I wrote my last philosophy paper, maybe I wouldn’t have bombed it. “Source Code” takes a philosophical approach to its almost time travel story. I say “almost” because there’s a few reservations behind the “time travel” in the film that I can’t really talk about here. Its rules feel a little bit like “Lost.” Basically, this film shows some interesting potential for Jones: he is another great mind for the sci-fi, likely to do similar changes to the genre that Abrams also amazingly pulled off.

Back to the philosophy though. If one were to ever find a way to revisit the past, “Source Code” asks all the right questions about it. Can you change major outcomes in the past, or will the same event happen no matter what you do? Is it possible for one body to be in two separate places at once, living two separate lives?

As both detective and emotionally damaged soldier, Gyllenhaal is compelling and convincing when slipping into either role. Jones knows how to point a camera just as well as his father (David Bowie) could play a guitar.

It is one thing to direct multiple different scenes in a movie, but to direct the same thing multiple times and make each time different is a gift. I loved how at the beginning, a shot of a train whizzing through a pleasant rustic scene is marked by a horrifying score and later on that same shot is given a much more pleasant background sound as the audience understands better what is about to happen. It is the director’s duty to guide the audience’s emotions, and through his wise choices, Jones does just that.

“Source Code” is also contains a strong screenplay by Ben Ripley. His dialogue is both entertaining and realistic, and the film flows so smoothly from one scene to another, even when jumping between the past and the present. The only real problem with it is that it suffers from Multiple Ending Disorder. This is when the film seems to end at least three to four times. I found at least one point where the film could’ve ended, and that final shot would have made it even stronger. Closure is always a good thing, but too much closure is unnecessary.

Even in this post bin Laden world, “Source Code” remains a huge standout among the films released in recent years chronicling the War on Terror. However, it really impresses most in its psychological and philosophical aspects. Mainly though, its just a great mystery, thriller, summer blockbuster that happened to be released in April.

If You Liked this Movie, You’ll also Like: Moon, Minority Report, Memento, The Sixth Sense, Blade Runner

There was a lot from “Source Code” that I unfortunately could not discuss in this review. Perhaps another, more thorough analysis will come.