April 2, 2011 -- In a world of endless remakes and sequels (Did you hear? They're making the Three Musketeers again!) it is nice to see a new movie that is somewhat original. While nothing is truly original, “Source Code” is a fairly original story, but it does reflect some elements of “Quantum Leap,” “Groundhog Day” and maybe a bit of “Grand Tour: Disaster in Time.”
In this story a military helicopter pilot, Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal of “Love and Other Drugs”) keeps waking up on a train which is about to explode, reliving the same eight minutes over and over. He begins to discover, along with the audience, what is happening. He is a sort of time traveling operative who is inhabiting another man's body (like in the old TV show Quantum Leap) for the last eight minutes of that man's life. He has a number of opportunities, eight minutes at a time, to find the bomb that is about to blow up the train and find the bomber. He is told by his handlers that he can't stop the bomb from going off, no matter what he does, but if he can identify the bomber he can perhaps prevent another, even worse explosion in the future.
There is a sort of half-hearted attempt to explain how this is possible in terms of quantum mechanics and alternate realities, but that's not the main part of this story. What this movie is really about is Colter Stevens and his desire to connect to his family and to have a life which is outside the narrow confines of this mission. He is being told that is not possible, but he refuses to accept his fate. He wants some choices. He also wants to help the people on the train, particularly the woman he is falling in love with, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan of “Gone Baby Gone”) another passenger on the ill-fated train.
Colter's handlers, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright of “Quantum of Solace”) and the more sympathetic Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga of “Up in the Air”) are trying to complete the mission — find the bomber and stop the next bombing — but Colleen develops empathy for Colter's plight while Rutledge treats Colter as a mere lab rat. In the end, everything depends on Colleen's humanity. There is a nice twist at the end of the story, written by Ben Ripley. I'm not sure the ending makes sense, but it is emotionally satisfying in a way that many stories are not these days. This is a well-written, well-acted film that doesn't overdo the repetition factor. It is a lot more about the humanity of the characters than it is about the science fiction element of the story. This film rates a B+.
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