Monday, April 11, 2011

Source Code

I'm a fan of the technique Robert Heinlein used in his best science fiction stories: just change one little thing but keep people normal so that you'll be more interested in what happens to them. And some of the best sci fi plots have to do with a twist of time. Here's another sci fi movie with a time shift. In this case, 8 minutes.

Eight minutes is how long a person's aura last after they die, and supposedly their conscience lives on. Jake Gyllenhaal as military pilot Colter Stevens finds himself on a train, which seems normal enough, and in someone else's consciousness, he has eight minutes to figure out how that bomb in the rear bathroom was planted, and by whom.

Like Groundhog Day, Capt Stevens finds himself living that 8 minutes again, over and over, until he can figure it all out. However, somewhere along the way, he finds the bigger mystery much more compelling: why he's there in the first place and why this is his mission.

I found the screenplay to be written quite tautly, a screenplay which takes flight only with great actors in their roles. Gyllenhaal acts as any of us would react if we found ourselves in such a confusing situation. Michelle Monaghan is Christine, the woman who is always across from him when he finds himself on the train once more. Can you build a relationship with a person in only eight minutes? Apparently you can, especially if free will changes your reaction to each other: if you react differently, she reacts differently, etc.

Vera Farmiga, who was so good in Up in the Air, is the cold Captain whose job it is to keep Stevens in line with his head in the project. Farmiga really nails this role, and it's through her that we come to our conclusions about the project she's in as well as her boss (Jeffrey Wright).

As much as I'm not looking for deep questions and equally deep answers to existence, etc., I have to admit I found some of those questions here. The movie made me think -- it's not your hold-on-for-the-fun-ride kind of sci fi movie, although there are certainly elements of that, and at first glance it looks like one of those. There's more to this one. It somewhat resembles Inception in that there's more to the first layer and even the second.

Truthfully, I found it all very confusing, particularly the ending. But the movie as a whole, and particularly the ending, is haunting me still. Thumb's up.


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