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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Review: Source Code (12A) ★★★
An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

Let me tell you right off the bat that I normally have very little time for Jake Gyllenhaal.

The Day After Tomorrow was as wooden as a cinematic Trojan horse and The Prince of Persia – Sands of Time was so bad that I wish the classic Amiga game had never been coded.

I am not ashamed to tell you that I purchased a copy of Brokeback Mountain in order to write a truly objective review for this site. I am ashamed however to reveal that it’s still in its plastic wrapper on a shelf three months later.

Of all the films that Gyllenhaal has ever penned a contract for, Donnie Darko stood as a lone and pale beacon.

Until now.

I remember Source Code being released at the box office and admit to being marginally interested, despite a relative absence of hype and an excess amount of Gyllenhaal. However, with life being the harried task-based fret-fest that it is, the cinema release came and went while I beavered away and I finally compromised at picking it up on the small screen.

For those of you that don’t know the premise of Source Code, I’d recommend you imagine a cross between Quantum Leap and Groundhog Day. If, for whatever reason you can’t make this comparison due to a lack of viewing knowledge, I would implore you to step away from your monitor right now and rectify the situation.



So, on the basis that we can share the above points of cinematic and television reference; let’s examine the rest of Source Code.

At its heart Source Code is a murder mystery.

Gyllenhaal plays armed forces veteran Colter Stevens who has to work out who has planted a bomb on a train before Chicago gets nuked. Unfortunately for Colter however, he only has eight minutes to do so before he explodes and restarts the process again and again and again. Secondly, Colter Stevens isn’t really Colter Stevens; he’s actually Sean Fentress, a guy on the fated train whose body Colter has leapt into to fulfil his mission.

The comparison between this and Quantum Leap is striking, not only through the core premise that Gyllenhaal has jumped into a body and identity that is not his own, and not only because he has to right a wrong against the clock. Source Code also employs Vera Farmiga (of The Departed fame) as a modern day ‘Al’ who is tasked with guiding him to success.

As the plot goes, that’s as far as I’m willing to elaborate for fear of spoiling what in essence is a fantastic action thriller with a time travel twist. What I would add however, is that this film works on a number of different levels. Firstly, Gyllenhaal redeems himself against my scorn with aplomb. He plays the confused and frantic hero to a tee, balancing both personality and emotion in a believable malaise.

Secondly the film is delivered at a break-neck pace, allowing just enough time to slip in clever exposition of plot elements before Gyllenhaal is thrust back through time once again to avert disaster.

Thirdly and finally, the movie does enough to stir a deeper level of thought regarding the question that every reader of this review will have asked.

“What If?”

Retrospective hindsight is a powerful emotion and it is equally effective when applied to a Hollywood blockbuster. Yet is it exactly hindsight which keeps this movie from reaching classic status. All of its tricks have been seen before. Before this movie was even conceived Doc Brown had already fired up the fluxcapacator and Adrien Brody had outworn The Jacket. It is by the repeated strokes of a double-edged sword of familiarity and initiative that this film succeeds and fails'.

So what if you don’t see this movie? Will thousands perish? Will you be unequivocally fired towards a life of misery?


All dramatic irony aside, Source Code is an enjoyable addition to both Gyllenhaal’s filmography and time travel movies in general and although time travel isn’t possible yet, this is ninety three minutes you won’t want back.

Review submitted and rated by: Dave Gledhill


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