"Look at me. Everything's going to be okay...."
- Director Duncan Jones has been on my cinematic radar since first viewing his incredible feature film debut Moon (2009). Jones' second film, 2011's Source Code, stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens, a man with the worst case of deja vu in history. After waking on a train, Stevens meets a woman (Michelle Monaghan) who seems to know him very well yet is calling him by a different name. He recognizes many things about this train, even anticipating moments before they happen, although to the best of his recollection he had never been on it before.
And then the train explodes.
Colter wakes up again. This time, he awakes inside some kind of pod with someone named Lt. Goodwin (Vera Farminga) trying to contact him through a television screen. Goodwin informs Colter that he is in fact Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot, and that he is taking part in an important mission using ground-breaking technology. This technology, called Source Code, allows a one person's consciousness to be inserted inside another person's body for about 8 minutes (it's a new technology, you see). The train that Colter was on has a bomb and he, inside the body of a man named Sean Fentress, must find out who that bomber is using the Source Code.
Source Code is geared for a wider audience than Jones' previous cerebral sci-fi Indie Moon but gets pretty cerebral in its own right. The story is predictable in some areas where the filmmakers must have thought the audience would have been fooled but a number of plot twists really surprise and pay off wonderfully in the end. Jones style greatly compliments the film; not measuring up to that in Moon but featuring a great balance of risk-taking style and accessible Hollywood packaging. Overall, this springtime sci-fi thriller is exciting, character centered, and much more complex than the viewer could have possibly guessed going in.
The only negative I took away from Source Code was Jake Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Colter Stevens. I will admit right off the bat that I have usually met a Jake Gyllenhaal performance with mixed feelings. Some of Gyllenhaal's performances are actually quite enthralling (such as his portrayal of Robert Graysmith in Zodiac (2007) and of the title character in Donnie Darko (2001)) but I find that Gyllenhaal, more than most young actors these days, often fails to appear natural in his roles. Subsequently, rather than being sucked into the film and character by a great performance, I am very aware that Gyllenhaal is acting and this takes away from the overall film experience. The last thing one can say about great actors like Cary Grant or Robert Downey Jr. is that they do not look or feel natural in their roles; this is, of course, one of the reasons that great actors are considered great. Unfortunately, Gyllenhaal is not a great actor and, although more passable as Colter Stevens than the norm, he is the lone but significant, sour note in Source Code.
CBC Rating: 7/10