Movies: Source Code | Arts & Culture

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Movies: Source Code
Arts & Culture
Movies:  Source Code

Hot on the heels of such imaginative action thrillers as “Inception” and “The Adjustment Bureau” comes “Source Code,” which like its predecessors features an A-list cast, sure-handed direction and a head-scratching premise.

The movie opens with some gorgeous aerials of downtown Chicago.  Then we zoom into a fast-moving passenger train.  Aboard is Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), who moments ago was piloting an Army helicopter in Afghanistan.  He’s befuddled, to say the least, and even more so when Christina (Michelle Monaghan, from “Gone Baby Gone”), the attractive young woman sitting across from him, seems to think he’s another person entirely. 

Things get even more confusing when Colter goes to the restroom and sees another man’s face in the mirror.  (For a few lovely seconds, he does the Groucho-Harpo moves from “Duck Soup.”)  And just when Christina is assuring him that everything will be okay, the whole train explodes. 

How’s that for a start?

When next we see Colter, he’s strapped into some sort of junked cockpit (a helicopter perhaps?), where he’s addressed via closed-circuit TV by Army Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga, of “Up in the Air”).  She informs him that he can inhabit the body of the guy on the train for a few short minutes at a time, to find out who planted the bomb -- and help deter an even deadlier attack on Chicago itself.  But if he fails to catch the bomber within the allotted times, he’ll have to go back again and again, each visit terminating with a ka-boom.

So how does that work?  “It’s complicated,” says the scientist in charge of the operation (Jeffrey Wright, who played Felix Leiter in the last James Bond movie), then launches into some mumbo-jumbo about brain activity lingering for eight minutes after death.  

So there you have it:  a movie mash-up of “24” and “Groundhog Day.”   

“Source Code” was scripted by TV writer Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones, who gave us last year’s considerably smaller sci-fi flick “Moon.”  While much larger in scale, “Source Code” echoes Jones’ earlier movie, with its lingering images of a solitary Colter in his cockpit, desperately trying to figure out what is happening to him, how to catch the bomber on his next ride to the train, and how to save the girl from the next explosion. 

Gyllenhaal is good as the central figure in this puzzling thriller, and receives able assistance from Monaghan and Farmiga.  I give major props to cinematographer Don Burgess for his crisp shots of Chicago and the speeding train, and to Jones for pulling off a far-fetched sci-fi premise with a strong human center.

You may not understand everything that’s going on here -- or the movie’s conclusion, but you certainly won’t be bored.  “Source Code” is rated PG-13 for its violent scenes.  I give it a B.


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