The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Source Code
Hey guys, I think the bomb is behind you.

A few years ago, there was a movie called Vantage Point, in which a bunch of people were trying to figure out who was responsible for a presidential assassination. The central scene kept replaying over and over, each time from a different perspective, so that we (and the characters) got a little bit more information each time. I hated that movie; the sheer repetitiveness of it drove me insane. Source Code does a similar thing, yet much more effectively. Rather than simply repeating itself, director Duncan Jones' follow-up to his superb Moon gradually reveals deeper levels to the story, eventually even transcending the label of "thriller" with its final revelations.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Colter Stevens, a United States soldier who inexplicably wakes up in some sort of confinement pod. He has no clue where he is or how he got there. His only contact is a face on a video monitor, belonging to an Air Force officer named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She informs him that he is part of an experimental procedure by which they can beam him across dimensions, allowing him to spend eight minutes in someone else's body. A terrorist bombing on a Chicago commuter train indicates that more attacks may be imminent, so they want him to inhabit one of the train's deceased passengers to see if he can detect who the bomber is. Stevens is repeatedly put back into the situation, each time having only a few minutes to gather information. As he gets closer to identifying the bomber, he comes to suspect that Goodwin is not telling him everything he needs to know. Michelle Monaghan plays Christina, a female commuter he's seated next to, and Jeffrey Wright plays Dr. Rutledge, the scientist who designed the process.

This is going to be a short review, because saying too much about Source Code would threaten to ruin some of the unexpected twists taken by the plot. What can be safely said is that much of the suspense comes from watching how the characters react. Stevens, nicely played by Gyllenhaal, runs the gamut of emotions, from fear, to anger, to suspicion, to something else that I won't spoil. Every trip across dimensions gives him clues about the bomber, but more importantly it gives him clues about the program in which he is an unwilling participant, and even about himself. Then there's Goodwin, who is, in some ways, the most fascinating character. Far from being a cold, calculating stereotype, she goes through most of the movie seeming hesitant, possibly even afraid. Goodwin is constantly looking off to the side, trying to get approval from Rutledge. The sense of tension grows from watching Stevens try to pump Goodwin for information, with her wavering between wanting to help him and needing to keep herself out of trouble. Vera Farmiga really does some outstanding work, as does Jeffrey Wright, portraying a man whose desire to prevent another catastrophe drives him to view Stevens almost as an adversary.

For about 75 minutes or so, Source Code is a superbly plotted thrill ride. I got very caught up in how Stevens adapts his plan with each successive pass through the other dimension. He takes what he learns and uses it to his advantage, thanks to good old-fashioned ingenuity. If you like movies that hook you with a gripping premise and don't let go, this one really satisfies. But what's perhaps most intriguing is the finale. Ultimately, Source Code isn't entirely about who the bomber is; after that mystery is solved, the film goes on for another ten minutes, and it is here that themes of reconciliation and the nature of heroism emerge. You get your money's worth with excitement, yet when all is said and done, the movie has some actual thematic depth to it.

With this film and Moon, Duncan Jones proves to be a major talent. Like that earlier project, Source Code delivers all the things you want in a thriller without ever losing its soul.

( 1/2 out of four)

Source Code is rated PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images, and for language. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.