×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Source Code

Solid execution and provocative ideas can't save Duncan Jones' "Moon" follow-up from a fatal hubris.

With:
Colter Stevens - Jake Gyllenhaal
Christina Warren - Michelle Monaghan
Colleen Goodwin - Vera Farmiga
Dr. Rutledge - Jeffrey Wright
Derek Frost - Michael Arden
Hazmi Cas Anvar
Max Denoff - Russell Peters

Solid execution and some provocative ideas can’t save “Source Code” from a fatal hubris, as it thinks itself far more clever than it actually is and assumes it’s earned emotions at which it’s only hinted. Sophomore director Duncan Jones is becoming an adept craftsman of such modestly scaled, cerebral speculative fiction, and had this been a SyFy original movie, it would have been most impressive. But as a follow-up to the startlingly inventive “Moon,” “Source Code” just doesn’t quite compute. SXSW opener ought to do solid but unspectacular business, with better odds in ancillary.

Summarizing this film is a dicey proposition, as the primary enjoyment to be had lies in gradually piecing together the rules of engagement. From the start, the audience is just as confused as the film’s protagonist, Army Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), as he awakens from a nap on a commuter train heading toward Chicago, opposite Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who seems to be his girlfriend and addresses him as Sean. After a flurry of confusion, in which he sees another man’s reflection in the mirror, the train suddenly explodes in a massive blast, killing all aboard.

Snapped back into his own body, Colter finds himself in a damp cement-and-concrete cell, communicating with fellow soldier Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) via videoscreen. After even more confusion, the basic premise emerges: Colter is a participant in an experimental Army intelligence project in which he can continually relive the last eight minutes of this commuter’s life, “Groundhog Day”-style, in order to find the bomb on the train and identify the bomber, who has threatened to follow up this attack with a dirty-bomb detonation in downtown Chicago. The head scientist (Jeffrey Wright) begins to explain how this is possible with a lecture ending: “It would take weeks to explain.”

But even the most far-fetched sci-fi premise is worth going along with if it thoughtfully examines its own ramifications, whereas “Source Code” treats this brain-teasing notion as though it’s all a clever riddle, albeit one without a particularly interesting solution. It’s also one that requires quantum leaps in logic, the most jarring being the idea that these scientists can use “parabolic calculus” to seamlessly integrate a foreign consciousness into the “afterglow” of dead brain cells, but can’t locate the origin of an explosion by simply observing the wreckage.

More promising is Colter’s ethical dilemma, as he quickly develops deep affection for his fellow passengers (the actors include comedian Russell Peters, who is at least given a convincing reason to do a bit of standup) and begins plotting ways to save them, even though they’re already dead. This could’ve given rise to a somber parable on the nobility of fighting against fate — and the film hints at some intriguing Zoroastrian concepts here — but it’s ultimately just employed to force an emotional undercurrent into what otherwise feels like an observational exercise. The various third-act twists just add further wrinkles to the plot without really developing the premise, and most viewers will be able to spot the guilty party long before Colter does.

“Source Code” subsists on a sustained note of claustrophobia — both physical and temporal — and Jones handles the gradual widening of the film’s visual scope with great aplomb, moving from tight angles and disorienting cutting to something more stable and comprehensible. There’s a number of great shots (particularly a flourish up through the train’s heating vents), and the production design is lovely.

Gyllenhaal could likely do this sort of bedroom-eyed soldier role in his sleep, but he plays the part with great energy and conviction. Farmiga uses the opportunity to add another warmly maternal bureaucrat role to her scorecard, and Wright makes for a nicely sinister string-puller.

Source Code

Production: A Summit Entertainment release of a Vendome Pictures presentation of a Mark Gordon Co. production. Produced by Gordon, Jordan Wynn, Phillippe Rousselet. Executive producers, Hawk Koch, Jeb Brody, Fabrice Gianfermi. Co-producers, Stuart Fenegan, Tracy Underwood. Directed by Duncan Jones. Screenplay, Ben Ripley.

Crew: Camera (color, Deluxe prints), Don Burgess; editor, Paul Hirsch; music, Chris Bacon; production designer, Barry Chusid; art director, Pierre Perrault; costume designer, Renee April; sound (Dolby Digital), Louis Marion; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Tom Bellfort; re-recording mixer, Scott Millan, Daniel J. Leahy, Marc Fishman; special effects supervisor, Ryal Cosgrove; visual effects supervisors, Louis Morin, Eloi Brunelle, Sebastien Moreau, Erik Nordby, Wayne Brinton; visual effects, Modus FX, Rodeo FX, MPC, Mr. X; stunt coordinators, Stephane Lefebvre, Patrick Kerton, Michael Scherer; associate producer, Sarah Platt; assistant director, Buck Deachman; casting, John Papsidera. Reviewed at Aidikoff screening room, Beverly Hills, Feb. 10, 2011. (In SXSW Film Festival -- opener.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 93 MIN.

Cast: Colter Stevens - Jake Gyllenhaal
Christina Warren - Michelle Monaghan
Colleen Goodwin - Vera Farmiga
Dr. Rutledge - Jeffrey Wright
Derek Frost - Michael Arden
Hazmi Cas Anvar
Max Denoff - Russell Peters

More Scene

  • Atmosphere91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball

    Inside the 2019 Oscar Parties

    Stars party all around Hollywood before, during, and after the Oscars. Here, Variety hits the town to give you the inside scoop on all the star-studded soirées. Keep checking back throughout the weekend for the latest updates… Hollywood for Science Gala Private estate of Jeanne and Tony Pritzker-, Beverly Hills, Feb. 21 More Reviews Album [...]

  • Speaker of the United States House

    Nancy Pelosi, Ava DuVernay Honored at VH1 Trailblazers Event

    Cher is feeling a little better about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. “When I see Trump spew his hate and tell his gazillion lies, I get pissed off and feel uneasy at the same time,” the Oscar winner and frequent Trump critic said Wednesday while introducing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at VH1 Trailblazers [...]

  • Karl Lagerfeld'Lagerfeld Confidential' Photocall at the

    Karl Lagerfeld Remembered at Costume Designers Guild Awards

    The death of fashion and costume designer Karl Lagerfeld cast somewhat of a shadow over the usually jubilant Costume Designers Guild Awards — the only award show where clothes literally steal the spotlight away from actors — which was held at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night. Here it was obvious that Lagerfeld’s impact on [...]

  • Kate Bosworth'Nona' film premiere, New York,

    Kate Bosworth Helps Launch Campaign for Female Filmmakers

    In her 20-year career in Hollywood, Kate Bosworth has starred in blockbusters like “Superman Returns” as well as indie darlings like 2014’s “Still Alice.” But the actress has always had a desire to get more involved from the ground up. Now, she is partnering with Women In Film and Chloe Wine Collection to launch the [...]

  • Amandla Stenberg and Sofia CarsonVanity Fair

    Oscar Week Kicks Off With Vanity Fair's New Hollywood Party

    The night was definitely still young Tuesday at Vanity Fair’s New Hollywood party in Los Angeles. The magazine kicked off Oscar week with a party — the first of its three-event Campaign Hollywood series — at Ysabel in West Hollywood to celebrate new and emerging talent. More Reviews Album Review: Lil Pump's 'Harverd Dropout' Berlin [...]

  • Oscars Ultimate Party Guide

    Oscars Ultimate Party Guide 2019

    Welcome to Oscar week. It’s the time of year when Hollywood’s film industry celebrates all things movies. But it’s certainly not just the big show everyone is looking forward to. More Reviews Album Review: Lil Pump's 'Harverd Dropout' Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches' With voting closed, it’s all about the parties now. Who’s doing what and [...]

  • Yalitza AparicioTeen Vogue Young Hollywood Party,

    'Roma' Star Yalitza Aparicio, 'Central Park Five's' Jharrel Jerome Sound Off on Trump

    Yalitza Aparicio recently reunited with Alfonso Cuarón, who directed her in “Roma,” for a W magazine photo project that featured her standing at various barriers built at the border between Mexico and the United States. The message? “You can make a name for yourself despite the differences,” Aparicio told Variety on Friday at Teen Vogue’s Young [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content