86. Source Code (2011)

A sci-fi brain teaser

8/10
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Written by: Ben Ripley
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

Sci-fi is a genre that should really be defined by the originality of its concepts and plots. Unfortunately, Hollywood has gushed out a lot of bad sci-fis that take full advantage of visual effects to make up for their complete lack of story. Essentially, sci-fi thrillers should provoke us to think before they go into post-production.

Source Code is a sci-fi action thriller that chooses intellectual stimulation over visual effects. This is not to say that Jake Gyllenhaal being reduced to nothing but scattered blue electrolights and getting blown to pieces repetitively looks cheap or unconvincing. Rather, it is in the story and the brain work out that we get from trying to make sense of it all that takes priority.

Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is a US military helicopter captain who wakes up in a train as somebody else – a teacher who was killed earlier that morning by an explosion detonated on the train. With the guidance of Captain Goodwin (Farmiga) and a mysterious programme director (Wright), Stevens is transferred into the same body, the same time and the same series of events so that he can locate the bomb, the bomber and stop an imminent second attack on the city of Chicago. As the director describes it, Stevens is like the hand on a clock, which Captain Goodwin sets back repetitively until he can give important intel that will stop a future attack. Stevens, however, discovers there is more to this experiment that even the Captain and her commanding director are unaware of.

8 minutes at a time to form lasting relationships before a train blows up

Underlined with an emotional connection to his father, the story of Stevens isn’t simply a mission of a physical kind. As his relationship with the girl opposite him in the train take different turns with every 8 minute window of opportunity to find out who the bomber is, Stevens’ thrilling investigation sheds interesting perspectives on life, love, justice, closure and the ethics of scientific programmes such as this.

Told with conciseness and riddle-like mystery, Source Code is a sci-fi thriller that stands out in its clever plotting and thought-provoking themes. Despite the blandness of Stevens’ character on script, Gyllenhaal’s performance gives Stevens a boyish charm and likeable qualities that come purely in the detail of his facial expressions and mannerisms. The same could be said for the performances of Monaghan and Farmiga, who expertly use subtlety and strong screen presence to combat what could have been boring characters.

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