Source Code

Remember the movie 50 First Dates? Source Code is nothing like it. Apologies for any unpleasant memories that reference may have brought about. Instead, Source code is an intelligent story about having more than one chance to get it right. It is a story about the dignity of human life, and an indulgence of the hope of a better life elsewhere.

Capt Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a former helicopter operator for the US forces in Afghanistan. As a result of injuries suffered during a mission, he is severely incapacitated, to the point of death. He is however kept alive, as the unwitting pawn in a top secret military program. Through his brain which is on the throes of death, the program, known as Source Code, is able to tap the last 8 minutes of other people that had been recently killed. Source Code works by inserting Stevens into the body of a suitable candidate, and through him re-live a phantom version of their last 8 minutes. Stevens could interact with people around him and bring back that knowledge with him, as many times as required.

Stevens wakes up on one such instance, in the body of one Sean Fentress. As he learns over time, Sean was killed in a train explosion outside Chicago that morning, and Stevens' mission was to find the bomber, because it was suspected that the bomber was planning a second attack in downtown Chicago shortly afterward. As Sean, he meets his friend Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), along with a bevy of characters in his car of the train - characters that form a stereotypical background to this thriller stretching eight minutes at a time and bookended by a wrenching wake up and a violent explosion. Orchestrating the episodes is his controller Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and the obligatory mad scientist Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright)

The mechanics of the movie, while vital to the story's existence do not play that much of a part in the plot itself. Stevens does stray from the path proscribed by his controller, but the motivation isn't as much to test the capabilities of the mechanics, but it is more to save the people on the train and particularly the girl he just met, who seems to know him so well. As a result, the story starts off at a disadvantage - there is always only one way for the story to end. Curiously the relentless unveiling of the truth feels more satisfying than it should, almost like destiny fulfilled.

Technically the movie is subtle. The explosions are understated and always in the background. Editing is mature and purposeful. And while the Q-word is used, one could safely ignore most of its' ramifications with no impact to the story. The dense explanatory dialogue takes care of that.

Overall Source Code is a tightly woven tale, a star in the new pantheon of accessible main-stream Science Fiction fare. It almost feels like a new era, one reminiscent of that of Star Wars. While the Source Code is no Star Wars, it is one where you get to meet the characters, sympathize and identify with them, and more important invest in their well being. Once you do that, it does not matter if it is the same eight minutes over and over again. You will be right there, cheering them on, hoping that something more complete is just round the corner.

April 09, 2011

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