Captain Colter Stevens finds himself assuming the identity of a school teacher on a train journey which is 8 minutes away from being blown up by a terrorist. As it turns out, Stevens is part of the Source Code, a military project which sends recruits into the last 8 minutes of a deceased persons life for a specific mission. His mission? To find the bomb on the train and to find the bomber, somewhere onboard the train, in order to prevent a further attack on downtown Chicago? Can Colter Stevens uncover the bomber, or will he be distracted by a potential love interest or his own back story?
Duncan Jones aka Zowie Bowie, son of David Bowie, declared himself in a grand stage by giving us Moon 2 years ago, an intriguing sci-fi thriller, which said that science fiction had a future beyond alien invasion films. Unfortunately, the teaser trailer and the poster seemed to peg this latest offering as nothing more than the latest 'Inception meets...' film, containing dream levels and some kind of sub-reality level which will pigeon hole it as merely another rushed out Inception capitalising film. So has Source Code surpassed its assumptions and created its own audience? Well, considering this came out the same week as Sucker Punch (Inception meets Music Videos), this film clearly makes a name for itself by separating itself from the crowd by being delightfully unique and really solidifies the reputation of its emerging director.
Don't get me wrong, on a basic level, Source Code is Inception meets Groundhog Day, as Colter Stevens is repeatedly sent back inside the Source Code to relive the same 8 minutes over and over again but with different consequences each time as a result of the 'independent factor' with Stevens being able to break continuity and do whatever he wants/needs to do in the 8 minutes. However, it surpasses that typecasting by becoming a genuinely intriguing mystery/thriller with an added love story. After Sucker Punch, I'm so glad to say there's another film that's gotten the 'dream levels' thing right and has done it well enough to separate itself from Inception and really make a name for itself, even though no-one will see this, choosing in favour to see the film with girls running around in kinky uniforms. For shame, UK viewing audience, for shame...
What makes this film great is the mystery, or rather mysteries, that run through it without confusing the audience: Who is the bomber? What is the Source Code? Where did Colter Stevens come from? Can Stevens change the present/future? It actually keeps you guessing and intrigued throughout its brief 90 minute run time. I mean, this could have run longer and played out its various mysteries a bit longer, but it completely fits into this 90 minute slot, it doesn't drag at all and it comes out better for it. It remains a compelling hour and a half of blink-and-you'll-miss-it action which you can't afford to take your eyes off of in fear of missing some sort of key or hint towards solving one of the films various questions it asks of its audience.
Jake Gyllenhaal is expected to carry the film, and does so extremely well, switching from confusion inside the Source Code to... Well, confusion outside the Source Code in the real world as well, but he does well and, after Love and Other Drugs and Prince of Persia, this serves as a welcome return to form. As far as the female leads go, Michelle Monaghan does well as the love interest in the severely restricted role she's given, but it's Vera Farmiga (of Up in the Air fame) who really makes the most of the absolutely rigidly ruled role she's given by giving a mere bit-part real character and emotion. Go, Vera!
Overall, I'd highly recommend this, definitely above Sucker Punch and a lot of the films currently on offer at the UK box office. It's pretty inventive given the presumptively-repetitive storyline, and gets the most out of it that it can without becoming slow and boring. Expect this to be Duncan Jones's last semi-independent sci-fi flick, he's bound to be snapped up by a Hollywood studio to lead some sort of major franchise after this, so make the most of the mind-bending narrative he offers up here, because my God it's worth the effort you'll be forced to invest in this.