Judging by the preview, Source Code (2011, PG-13) seemed like a generic action flick with stereotypical characters and plot. It looked like it could be worth seeing but not a ground- breaking cinematic achievement. As it turned out, it wasn’t a terribly ground-breaking achievement, but it was much better than expected.
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an American Army helicopter pilot, his last memory is on the battle field in Afghanistan. He wakes up on a commuter train in Chicago and realizes he has the identity of one of the train’s passengers. Thoroughly confused, he tries to figure out what is happening. Eight minutes after waking up, a bomb goes off in the train and Stevens wakes up again in some kind of pod. A military woman named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) speaks to him through a monitor and explains that he needs to go back and find the bomber. Stevens wakes up again, and relives the same eight minutes. But the bomb goes off again, sending Stevens back to the pod with no new information. Stevens demands to know what is happening. Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge (the scientist in charge) explain that he is part of a project that can put someone in another person's consciousness during the last eight minutes of their life. He is not time traveling, just living the last eight minutes of someone’s life. Simply deactivating the bomb would not change anything, but figuring out who the bomber is would help the government find the bomber in real life. Stevens lives the same eight minutes over and over trying to find the bomber, but he finds himself falling in love with Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), the woman traveling with the man in whose consciousness he is living.
The story line in this movie is pretty interesting; it’s almost as if Groundhog Day (1993) and Die Hard (1988) were blended together to form Source Code. You relive the same events over and over until you’ve memorized everything about the people around you, all while trying to stop a very clever terrorist. There was some good potential for the movie to get boring since you are viewing the same eight minutes repeatedly. However, like Groundhog Day, it keeps showing a little bit more information each time Stevens returns to the train. This gives the audience ample opportunity to see new things and try to figure out who the terrorist is along with Stevens. There is just enough information revealed about the story as it progresses so that the audience is not left bewildered, nor is there so much revealed that the audience figures everything out too quickly. The movie develops in such a way that it keeps the audience guessing and yet the twists and surprises are not completely unexpected.
Source Code is an action movie, but it has a great theme to it; life is precious and should be lived to its fullest. Stevens is by every means a military soldier, but he is intent on trying to save the lives on the train despite being told that they are already dead in the real world. I thought this was refreshing since even protagonist military officers are often portrayed as combat-driven war machines. When in the pod communicating with Goodwin, Stevens is generally a by-the-book officer. On the train, he’s still a good person with no real intention of hurting anyone, but he is willing to use force to find the terrorist. Military officers do have souls and feelings for people, contrary to how the media and cinema often depict them. Stevens asks Christina several times just before the bomb goes off, “What would you do if you knew you only had one minute to live?” This is a bit cliché, but is applicable to the theme and the concerns Stevens is dealing with each time he asks.
This really was an exciting movie and was lots of fun. It’s worth watching at least once. It may even be worth a second viewing so you’ll know what to look for since you would know the end from the beginning. Definitely see Source Code, its more intelligent than your average action movie.