Movies that explore inhabiting another’s mind or any type of story that relies on “mind control” as its basis aren’t usually something I watch. This particular take isn’t the easiest story to relate to because its concept is foreign to the average person – at best it is emotionally engaging and at worst, it writers expects us to know too much before things are properly explained.
Protecting the lives of his fellow U.S. citizen has been Colter Stevens’ mission. As an American soldier, putting his life on the line is a day-to-day part of his job. One of the last things Colter remembers is flying a mission over Afghanistan, when he wakes on a moving train sitting next to a beautiful woman who clearly knows him… he is beyond confused. Insisting that he is not Sean (Jake Gyllenhaal) as the woman claims he is, he leaves her side only to glimpse his reflection and does not even recognize himself. Jarred by a bomb explosion, again he awakens in a new location, this time strapped into a harness after the train he was a passenger on exploded. Hearing the voice of a woman, a small computer screen reveals the person as Navy officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who explains to him the purpose for assuming another mans identity. The train was just the first target in a string of high-profile terrorist attacks in Chicago – and Colter’s mission is to uncover that person’s identity. Using a new scientific program called Source Code where someone can enter the mind of another human being to relive their last moments – the brain’s short-lived memory remains alive eight minutes following death. Sean and the woman he rides the train with everyday, Christina were among the fatalities that morning on the commuter train.
Going back in to complete the mission, the more he talks with her, the more he investigates, the more Colter begins to feel something for Christina (Michelle Monaghan). It goes to such an extent that he refuses to leave her behind… and he only has eight minutes each time he is sent in. He will risk everything – even his own safety to get her out of the situation before eight minutes passes and disaster strikes again.
Much like comparable predecessors, Source Code’s problem doesn’t lie so much in its emphasis to create a good story structure but rather its downfall comes with some harsher profanity… but you’ll find more on that in the footnote. Source Code had me stumped – it still does to some extent. The change in directions and misdirection isn’t brilliant enough to actually be mind blowing but it is clever. It took me into the next day to ponder the intricacies in order to realize what many of the conclusions were suggesting. The story is gripping in its ability to pull the audience in enough to care about the hero where its counterparts might only be considering how big the next explosion should be. The idea that a man wants to save lives he is told are already past saving is admirable, even if he felt he had nothing to lose, his dedication was still noble. The main fault of the movie lies in its necessity to be so repetitive. Its tendency to repeat on top of itself gets old really fast but at the same time once the movie settles into the pattern, it does a little better job at skipping parts of the already rehashed scenario so as not to bore viewers to tears. That being said, the movie has a fabulous cast who seem to become really complex characters even with the storyline they are given. Jake and Vera do a nice job with what they are given but Michelle’s character is basically expendable in the sense that she has no depth. To be fair, it isn’t for lack of good acting but limited to little screen time. (Just as a fun side note, in a minor role, a guest star from a memorable episode of The Closer appears.)
Even before the opening credits finished, the movie impressed me with its set-up, all before we glimpse a single person or hear a word of dialogue. It is all thanks to the musical score, which sets the mood for an intriguing mystery that, makes us as confused as the hero – which may or may not be a good thing. If you don’t mind having your mind bent and twisted around in any number of ways, then this is an entertaining ninety-four minutes.
(What to know: Sh*t is a popular form of venting frustration, as is abusing God’s name with around half a dozen GD. [There is also the phrase “f- you.”] Additionally problematic is the emotional implications. Several scenes might be disturbing for those who are sensitive to random violence. One man is mentally disturbed and shoots two people [there are pools of blood] for numerous reasons, just one of which is because they threw him “off schedule.” This scene is little more intense than others merely for the fact that two immovable bodies are shown lying helpless inches from one another. Elsewhere there are several shots that repeat themselves of a train exploding [there aren’t ever graphic depictions of this, but the serious implication of lives lost is explored]; conversation revolves around what happened to a Navy pilot. Certain other scenes are a little more intense like Colter being in a capsule of sorts, implied pain when he transitions back to the train or a man being seen in a coffin-like box without legs and a host of wires attached to his brain. The film is rated PG13.)