April 3, 2011
Director: Duncan Jones
Writer: Ben Ripley
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan
"What would you do if you knew you only had a few minutes to live?" Imagine waking up on a commuter train to Chicago, with no knowledge of how you got there or why you aren't with your division in Afghanistan, and the only person who seems to know you thinks you're someone else. Such is the experience of Captain Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), who is tasked by Captain Colleen Goodwin (Farmiga) with the daunting quest of preventing a bombing of a commuter train bound for Chicago, which has among its passengers a woman named Christina (Monaghan). After a few unsuccessful attempts, Goodwin reveals to Stevens that the attack on the train is unpreventable, and his actual goal is saving the lives of 2 million or so Chicagoans who may die in a second attack by the same bomber. Yet another fly in the ointment: the Source Code program only allows Stevens to interfere in events in a burst of eight minutes at a time.
I know it's early in the year, but this is the first serious contender (okay, maybe Rango too) for my top ten of 2011. While Jones's first film Moon proved his mettle in the low-budget, self-written, dramatic side of sci-fi, Source Code is the flip side of that coin in nearly every way. It's a huge action set piece, this time with Ben Ripley's stellar script (with a personal touch of Jones here and there), and Gyllenhaal is the perfect choice for the film's male lead, running the emotional gamut of miserable to comedic and plenty of stops between the two. Monaghan is really given more credit in the film's marketing than she deserves; her character's just sort of there for Gyllenhaal to play off of. Farmiga, who many will remember from her Oscar-nominated role in Up in the Air, is the female star once again deserving of true praise, this time pulling off a struggle between what her station demands of her and what she feels is morally right. Above all else, however, the film's strong suit is (much like Buried) triumphing due to, rather than in spite of, its self-imposed limitation. Keeping the same eight minutes interesting over and over again isn't someone every filmmaker could accomplish, but between the dual visions of Ripley and Jones, Source Code pulls it off in spades. I'm a couple films behind (shame on me), but I'm glad I started back with such a strong cinematic feat. A+