I had the (increasingly) rare free moment today, and I was able to spend it by doing what I do best, and that’s go to the movies. Today’s movie selection is the action thriller Source Code. The Summit Entertainment production stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright. I had seen commercials and trailers for this movie for a while, and I was intrigued to see how it would all play out. I like a good thriller as much as the next person, but the question was how would this work on screen.
The movie begins with Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) waking up on a train in the body of Chicago schoolteacher Sean Fentress. Disoriented and confused, he finds himself sitting in front of a woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan). He hurriedly tries to make sense of what’s going on, but before he can start putting the pieces together, a bomb goes off and kills everyone on the train. He awakes in a pod, where he is greeted by Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She lets him know that he is inside something called the Source Code, and that he has eight minutes to find the bomb that killed everyone on the train. Every failure brings him back to the pod with only a few moments to spare before returning back to the train. He also finds out that the first bomb was a test run, and that there is another one geared up to destroy Chicago. With constant urging from Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), he sets out on his mission, which ends up being a race against time.
My previous experience with Jake Gyllenhaal was with that disastrous Prince of Persia movie. I didn’t know if I was ready to give him another shot so soon, but I decided to go for the ride. Suffice it to say, this was the right decision. Gyllenhaal has a great sense of humor in this movie, and he handles the action scenes well. His actions as the reluctant hero are phenomenal, and his transition to being the hero everyone thinks he can be is virtually seamless.
Michelle Monaghan is charming in her role. The last time I got a good look at her was with Mission: Impossible III, and she’s good at playing the virtual damsel in distress. With the constant jumps that Stevens takes, it’s great to see Christina’s character evolve and come out through the various interactions with Stevens/Fenteress.
Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright play the overseer and the project director, respectively. I lumped these two together because they have great chemistry onscreen. Farmiga’s role as Captain Goodwin is firm, but caring, and she performs it well. Wright’s role as Dr. Rutledge was more stern and effacing, with his only focus being on the mission itself, and not caring about what Stevens is actually going through.
The movie is directed by Duncan Jones, and he is able to strike the balance between action and humor effortlessly. He is more recognized for directing the Sam Rockwell vehicle Moon, but he does a great job with the Ben Ripley script. Chris Bacon does the score here, and it’s almost heroic in some scenes and subdued when it calls for it. The main theme plays on Stevens’ heroism, and it’s something that carries throughout the film itself.
This movie felt very familiar to me, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out where the familiarity came from; in fact it came within the first ten minutes: Source Code reminds me of Quantum Leap, with Gyllenhaal playing the part of Sam Beckett and Farmiga doing a very good impression of Admiral Al Calavicci, so much so that Sam Beckett himself – Scott Bakula – has a bit part in the movie. I really liked that show, and it helped to allow me to enjoy the movie that much more. This is a taunt little thriller, and with a running time of about 93 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The movie creates its own universe, and it dares you to come along for the ride. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to give this movie four times More Epic than Love Jones.
After all, this is a definite case of the past affecting the future.