Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Director Duncan Jones
Released May 5
If you're a fan of Phillip K. Dick, then Source Code is the film for you.
The buzz on Source Code has been good ever since the script topped the Hollywood Black List, the list of Hollywood's top unproduced screenplays, a few years ago. Ben Ripley's masterpiece has been updated a few times since then, but the main premise has remained intact, and now, under the astute guidance of second time director, Duncan Jones (Moon) it's become a fine thriller film, encompassing big screen action and subtle emotion.
You wake with the protagonist, Colter Stevens. He's on a commuter train, somewhere, opposite a nice young lady, and he's stuck inside the body of another man. Things are… weird. He tries to find out who he is, what he is doing, what is going on - but is interrupted by a massive explosion, wherein he dies.
That's not the whole movie. That's the first eight minutes.
It's soon obvious that Captain Coulter Stevens is inside the Source Code - a combination of quantum entanglement, digitised reality and residual electric brain energy. Obvious!
His job is to find out who planted the bomb that destroyed the train, and he's only got a limited time to do so - the threat of a 'dirty' bomb (nuclear material blown up using conventional means) hangs over Chicago, and time is running out. Stevens must discover the origins of the bomb in the final 8 minutes of the life of the man he's in. There is no time travel. It's a finite loop that can be played over and over again, until he picks up that moment of reality hidden beforehand.
What happens next - it's a shame to tell you too much. The great fun of Source Code is the unravelling of the truth, on two different levels, as the movie progresses.
Smart beans will pick up what's going on, but the way the story is laid out, both in script and direction, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised again and again by both twists and the deft handling of those twists.
The basic premise of Source Code is, scientifically, iffy, of course. How does the reality surrounding a human being become encoded into the memory of a human being without direct interaction? It's a supercharged version of Deckard's photo analysis machine in Blade Runner. It's easy, however, to let this go by. It's necessary, really.
The story of Source Code has two key drivers. Stevens wants to solve the mystery and stop the second bomb, he also, against all logic, wants to save the girl. A girl who is already dead.
Therein lies some real quantum physics fun. Heisenberg would be rolling a little in his grave, but still, the way the Source Code jumps about each time Stevens returns, with subtle variations and alterations, is a delightful cypher for quantum unpredictability and a great way to seed some twists and turns into the script.
The power of the hero trying to save the girl has a basic appeal to an audience. What lifts the film is director Duncan Jones' approach to the way the hero is trying to save himself. There is almost a poetic touch to the protagonist's journey through a roller coaster of emotion and identity.
This is where the real Phillip K. Dick meat and potatoes is:
Who is he?
Where is he?
How did he get there?
How long has he been there?
Who is he working for?
Why is he so compatible with the Source Code?
Why can't they let him talk to his father?
Finding out the answers to these questions is where the fun of Source Code lies. The 'save the princess' stuff is almost by the by. For an extra twist, there's one more question - but you know too much already.
Source Code is highly recommended. If you're a fan of Phillip K. Dick, it's a must see. If you just love a decent thriller, it's perfectly good too. If you thought Duncan Jones' Moon was a great debut, this proves he is big time.