Theatrical release: 04/01/2011 DVD Date: 07/26/2011
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 93 minutes
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Review: I admit I'm not much of a Jake Gyllenhaal fan so I had some reservations about this film going in, but the tautly plotted storyline had me overlooking the fact that he seems badly miscast in his role here.
Gyllenhaal plays helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens, who awakens on a commuter train in Chicago opposite a woman (Michelle Monaghan playing Christina Warren), who addresses him as Sean Fentress. He tells her she's mistaken, visits the rest room, where he sees a different face in the mirror. Minutes later the train explodes, with Stevens now awakening in an enclosed capsule with a video feed to a Navy officer (Vera Farmiga as Colleen Goodwin) sitting in what appears to be a research laboratory. Stevens demands to know where he is, but Goodwin is evasive, telling him he must complete his mission. He then finds himself in a time loop, repeating his experience on the commuter train. After the second explosion, the director of the research facility tells Stevens that he is an unwilling participant in an experimental project designed to thwart terrorism: "Source Code is not time travel. Rather, Source Code is time reassignment. It gives us access to a parallel reality." His mission: to find out who planted the bomb on the train before another, more deadly device, is detonated in the city.
I bought into the storyline and enjoyed the clean, spare look to the film. There are basically only three sets — the interior of the train, the research laboratory, and the capsule — but they're used quite effectively. (There is one scene outside the train, and the closing scene in downtown Chicago, but they are somewhat tangential to the overall story.) Probably the most interesting performance in the whole film is that of Goodwin. She's spent two months "training" Stevens prior to this mission, and when it's time for him to do it, she's clearly frustrated at his initial reluctance. But she's also grown fond of him, and when he makes a special request, she risks her job to make it happen. And somewhat paradoxically, the Stevens character — given he's the star — is the one I liked the least ... and not just because of Gyllenhall. For a seasoned war veteran, one who commands a chopper in enemy territory, he seems surprisingly blunt and uncoordinated, lacking the deft touch one would expect of such a character.
I will say I thought the ending didn't quite fit with the rest of the film, and was slightly disappointed by it. To enjoy the film you have to buy into the premise — which I did — but the final scenes require a leap of faith I wasn't quite able to take. But that's a minor quibble in this otherwise fine and entertaining thriller.