Director Duncan Jones made quite the splash on the film scene with his debut film “Moon.” After the film won multiple British film awards and gained critical acclaim nearly everywhere else, the bar for Jones' second film, "Source Code," was set high.
Trailers for the film made "Source Code" look like nothing more than an enjoyable evening out at the movies. The personable, intimate feel of “Moon” did not seem like it could exist in "Source Code," a movie that looked like a revamp of 2006's “Déjà Vu.” Even with the strength of the cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Famiga), it seemed like a film that would be worth watching, but not worth owning.
However, once the film actually started, those assumptions were quickly laid to rest.
“Source Code” features a clever script, a fast pace and brilliant acting from the always charismatic Gyllenhaal. In a film that easily could have been cliché or typical, Jones finds a way to break the mold and delivers us a wildly entertaining ride from start to finish.
Centering on Army helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), the film is almost entirely set within an eight-minute time frame. Stuck in a body that is not his own, Stevens finds himself in a train that, after eight minutes, eventually and inevitably explodes. After each successive explosion, Stevens awakes in a capsule of unknown location, with only a screen linked to a secret military operation center available.
Stevens struggles with the task he's been given, which is to relive these eight minutes over and over until he finds the bomb (and bomber) that detonates the train. With assurance from Officer Goodwin (Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffery Wright) that this task is of utmost importance, Stevens continues onward with his work.
Stevens is introduced to the idea of “source code,” or an eight-minute window that is accessible in the human brain. He is assured that world that has been created in these eight-minute intervals is not real, that any feeling of empathy for the passengers is irrelevant. However, though the world itself may not be “real” in the traditional sense of the word, it has become reality for the isolated Captain Colter Stevens.
In an interview with The State Press, director Duncan Jones discussed the film's difference from his debut effort.
“I love the fact that it sort of starts with a bang and just keeps on going, it's just really fast paced. And for me, that seemed so much different from ‘Moon,’ which is obviously quite slow and thoughtful, whereas Source Code is just more ... popcorn," he said.
While the film is intensely different from his debut work, there are a few striking similarities that can attest to the power of Jones' directing. Both films have relied on the strength of his characters, which was by design. Of his leads, Jones said, “The thing that I love about Sam [Rockwell] and Jake [Gyllenhaal] is that they're both incredibly empathetic guys, and as an audience, you can immediately just get behind them. They're able to do the serious, dramatic moments, but they also have a sense of humor. I love that balance.”
“Source Code” is a delightfully smart sci-fi thriller that finds time in between explosions to truly endear itself to the audience. It offers the viewer an alternate reality that, while a stretch, becomes real to us as well. Jones may be in the beginning stages of his career, but if he continues along his current trajectory, it will be a long and successful one.
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