Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
Director: Duncan Jones
Running Time: 93 mins
Source Code is an American film about a soldier who, after waking up in someone else’s body on board a commuter train, finds he is part of an experimental programme intended to find the perpetrator of the bombing of the train, but with only 8 minutes to do so.
This is a really entertaining film. Above all, it’s a fast-moving thriller that takes a potentially complex sci-fi premise and condenses it effectively into a very sleek and enjoyable story, mixed with a riveting puzzle-style mystery, making for a fully captivating watch from start to finish, furthered by a great central performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, all of which make Source Code a huge amount of fun.
Let’s start off with the film’s story, which may seem a little difficult to get your head around by just reading the synopsis. The film centres on a soldier who, as part of a government programme, is being used to be sent to the location of a train bombing before it happens, in order to find the bomber before he strikes.
That may still sound like a whole load of sci-fi jargon, but what it boils down to is a Groundhog Day-style story where we watch our main man be repeatedly transported into the train in the form of another man, leaving him to try and use each 8 minute burst before the bomb goes off to find clues that lead to the bomber.
In that, the sci-fi element is mainly used to allow the mystery to flourish, and that’s exactly what happens, because this film is undoubtedly most entertaining because of the fascinating puzzle that you’re left to work out along with Jake Gyllenhaal, working off several tiny clues in and around the train carriage to build your way to uncovering which person on the train – if anyone – committed the attack.
So, Source Code is a perfect watch for any sci-fi fan as well as mystery lovers, as the film puts equal emphasis on the sci-fi/simulated reality concept as it does its Agatha Christie-style mystery, and although they may not seem like genres that are a match made in heaven, it makes for a really entertaining watch.
Along with the excellent screenplay, director Duncan Jones plays a big role in that. Above all, Jones gives the film a really strong pace and intensity from the first moment, as if you are living the last 8 minutes of your life again and again with the weight of uncovering a mystery on your shoulders too. Thanks to that pace, it’s so easy to get completely enthralled by the mystery at hand, and although there are a couple of irregular and occasionally jarring breaks, it’s thanks to Jones’ slick and fast-paced directing that the two genres work so well in tandem, and the film is so exciting throughout.
What’s more is that Jake Gyllenhaal gives a great performance in the lead role as the soldier. Although I won’t go too much into the character’s story, Gyllenhaal lends him an impressive level of depth and emotion with a very strong performance that emphasises the man’s confusion at his situation, bringing you closer to the action as you can easily sympathise with him from the start, adding yet another level of intrigue to the film as a whole.
Finally, while Source Code is a very entertaining watch, it’s not entirely without its problems. For one, the film does take a couple too many breaks in between train sequences, and although they are necessary parts of the overall story, I would have liked to see these breaks a little more spaced out, and brought about in a slightly less jarring way.
Also, the film’s final act isn’t quite as impressive as the preceding hour or so. Although I was surprised that the story managed to take a different direction in the final act and still prove interesting, there are some very cheesy elements of the final act that prove a little unsatisfying in the grand scheme of things, and don’t end the film on the note that it perhaps deserves.
Overall, however, I had a lot of fun with Source Code. It’s a really entertaining film with a strong sci-fi premise and a really exciting and intriguing puzzle mystery, and although it doesn’t always hold out for 100% of its runtime, fast-paced directing from Duncan Jones and a riveting performance from Jake Gyllenhaal make it a thoroughly worthwhile watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.