Martin Smith reviews fast-paced, action thriller Source Code crack
Imagine you could relive the same eight minutes over and over. Which would you pick? (Please, keep your answers clean – this is a family magazine.)Whatever your choice, it’s unlikely to be a train about to be blown up by terrorists, which is where Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) continually finds himself. Trapped in a strange simulator, he is repeatedly transferred into the ‘source code’ of reality by the US military, in order to find information that could prevent follow-up attacks. The source code works like an interactive recording of an event and although he can change his actions, he can’t change history and save the train, however much he finds himself wanting to.
Source Code is a wonderfully enigmatic film that can only be properly explained by giving away half of its delights. The best way to think of it is as Groundhog Day crossed with Quantum Leap, just minus all the camp saccharine of the latter. Gyllenhaal gives a strong and sympathetic performance in a role that could have proved rather annoying with the wrong actor, but is perhaps out-shined by his co-stars. First amongst them is Michelle Monaghan, one of the few actresses anyone could convincingly fall in love with in eight minutes.
Also impressive is Vera Farmiga as Colter’s supervisor, whose stern yet compassionate consternation to Colter’s situation frequently smoothes over both his and the audience’s attempts to get their heads around the plot.
The special features for the DVD are largely built around explaining and exploring the science at the film’s core. Focal Points is a series of short, stylish, animated info-bursts that give background detail on concepts like virtual reality simulators and quantum physics. These actually make the other main featurette, Expert Intel, feel rather redundant, as a physics professor dryly expounds on the same topics at length. Cast and Crew Insights is a series of somewhat luvvy interviews and also a bit of a dud. The producers win points for the audio commentary, which brings together director Duncan Jones, writer Ben Ripley and Gyllenhaal, but the Trivia Track and Tales of Time Travel subtitle options are each tenuous, inane and pointless. Certainly neither is worth a viewing of the film just to see them.
Thankfully, the film itself is compelling enough in its own right. Intelligent, beautifully shot and well-acted; Source Code is definitely 90 minutes that are worth reliving over and over.