Inception is the gift that keeps on giving. Hollywood, of course, is nothing if not self-cannibalizing. It takes any kind of success and witlessly tries to duplicate it. But how do you duplicate a film as original, twisty, and downright weird as Inception? You don’t, of course. But maybe you greenlight intelligent, complex sci-fi thrillers that you might otherwise have ignored. Hence, we had The Adjustment Bureau, which wasn't particularly good but was at least a break from the standard Hollywood fare. And now we have the excellent Source Code.
Thank you, Christopher Nolan.
Source Code is directed by Duncan Jones, and if that name doesn’t sound familiar, how bout this one: Zowie Bowie? Yup, he’s David Bowie’s son, all growed up, and he’s turned into a darn good filmmaker. (His little seen Moon got critical raves.)
His leading man is Jake Gyllenhaal—Jakie-pie, in my household (ahem)—who is one actor I could see seamlessly taking over the Bourne franchise. He’s sensitive, yet studly.
As the film starts, Jake’s Captain Colter Stevens comes-to on a commuter train in Chicago. A very pretty woman (Michele Monaghan) keeps calling him Sean and acts like she knows him. He stumbles to the bathroom, looks in the mirror, and—whoah—who’s that dude staring back at him? A few minutes later, the train explodes, and he’s suddenly in a capsule of some sort talking on computer monitors to his superior officers.
He’s part of a source code, they eventually explain—an 8-minute window through the time-space continuum; it’s not quite time travel, but a shadow of an event that already took place.
Captain Colter’s job is to find out who the bomber is, because he has an even more malicious agenda: To blow up central Chicago. The people on the train are already dead, he’s told; there’s nothing he can do to save them.
So Colter keeps going back on the that train, divining more and more clues, getting more and more comfortable with the insane nature of his mission. Of course, he falls for Monaghan’s Christina, and of course, he doesn’t believe that he can’t save the train. He is, after all, our hero.
But there are other questions: Exactly what kind of mission is he on? Where is he? And what about the rest of his troop? All will be answered, in somewhat shocking fashion, before the film is over.
Source Code is an absolute gas. The 8-minutes til impact thing is brilliant—and gives the film a Speed-like, beat-the-clock intensity. Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright are just perfect as the inscrutable military superiors—they add a touch of Big Brother style paranoia to the proceedings. And Gyllenhaal and Monaghan have a natural, winning chemistry.
I must confess I’m not completely sure I understood the ending of Source Code (actually, I’m not completely sure it made any sense), but it felt satisfying all the same. Besides, it just gives me an excuse to see the film again. Not that I needed one.