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.

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

  • John CenaSports Illustrated Sportsperson of the

    John Cena on WWE's Acceptance by Hollywood and the Professional Sports World

    John Cena says the WWE is finally getting the attention it deserves by Hollywood and the professional sports world. “I’m just glad that no longer are we looked down upon, not only by the sport industry, but by the performing arts industry,” Cena told Variety on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills at Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Christian Bale'Vice' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Christian Bale Recalls Meeting Donald Trump: 'He Thought I Was Bruce Wayne'

    With Christian Bale‘s latest film, “Vice,” a political dramedy, it’s inevitable ties will be drawn between the film and the current political administration and its chief, President Donald Trump. On the red carpet for the premiere of “Vice,” Bale, who stars as former Vice President Dick Cheney, shared that he met the current president while [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  More Reviews Film Review: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content