Source Code is the second feature film from already acclaimed director Duncan Jones. Jones took film fans by surprise with his psychological thriller Moon (starring Sam Rockwell) in 2009. Unlike that film however, Source Code is rated PG-13 and aimed at a younger audience, but the themes and content may be a bit heavier that what audiences going to see it may be expecting. Jake Gyllenhaal steps in as Captain Colter Stevens, a soldier who suddenly wakes up on a train heading into Chicago in the body of someone else. After eight minutes, the train explodes and Colter finds himself in some sort of capsule with only a video monitor linked to a military woman giving him instructions. Entirely disoriented, Colter is thrust back into those eight minutes on the train, with the mission to find the bomb and the bomber.
This is a tough film to fully discuss because it's deeper than what it might seem like on the surface, and talking about it too much could ruin the movie for some. It's very much a sci-fi film based on the technology and time travel presented. It has a Quantum Leap meets Deja Vu feel, with a dose of the repetition that Vantage Point offered, yet with a truly unique spin altogether. Although it's presented within the more accessible PG-13 fitting, Jones definitely stretches what can be allowed in such a film, as some of the violence and intense imagery pushes the envelope. But Jones is a skilled director indeed. Colter only has eight minutes each time he goes into the Source Code and we experiencing nearly everything Colter is experiencing - even the disorientation. We discover the facts as Colter does, and we start to care about the victims of the train bombing as he begins to.
Jake Gyllenhaal really gets to prove his acting talents in this film, turning in one of the best performances of his career. He injects the needed energy, passion, and emotion into the role, and carries it through adeptly. Michelle Monaghan isn't given much to do with each of the eight minute runs we see her in, but she's charming and intriguing enough to reel in the audience along with Colter. We start to want to see Colter succeed with each attempt. To round out the central cast, Vera Farmiga is also wonderful as Colleen Goodwin, Colter's main contact for his missions. For a good portion of the film, we see Farmiga from Colter's viewpoint of just her face on a monitor screen and Vera does a wonderful job conveying a great deal with just her eyes and body language. She's a crucial character to the film and Jones does a great job fleshing her out as well. Finally, Jeffrey Wright, who may be most recognizable from the two most recent James Bond films, is quirky - if not a bit creepy - as the creator of Source Code. There's isn't a weak spot in the acting in this film and it pays off in the end.
Viewers really get a lot more than they're expecting when watching this movie. The film really goes beyond its central premise, and offers up plenty to talk about afterwards. The time travel "rules" applied to the film may leave more questions than answers, and would likely give Doc Brown a serious migraine, but given that the subject matter is entirely fictitious, the audience is expected to suspend their disbelief to embrace Source Code's own unique set of rules. Jones executes everything so well, resolving the film in a satisfying manner, that it makes all of the questions that are posed along the way forgivable.
The content is pretty intense at times for its PG-13 rating. The film deals with the topic of terrorism and a bomb blowing up a train, killing tons of people. Not only do we see this once, but we see it many more times. Most of the time, we just see digitally-rendered flames engulfing the train and/or its passengers, but it's seldom graphic. There is one of those instances, when we see, in a montage of explosions, Christina's (Monaghan's character) face get a bit stretched and distorted (in a mildly gross fashion). More severe violence includes Colter attacking random passengers in his quest to find the bomber, he himself getting struck and subdued by the train's security (with a little blood on his head), a man jumping from the moving train and being covered in abrasions and bloody scrapes, and some blood on the ground from an aerial view of two people who were shot and killed. The most disturbing however -- and I recommend not reading this part if you don't want any potential spoilers -- is seeing a body with part of the back of their head removed, exposing their brain as it's hooked up to wires. Even worse, we later see the rest of the body revealed to be just a fragment of a frame with all the limbs and most of their torso missing, exposing their internal organs beneath a clear-but-steamy plastic or glass shielding. It's very gruesome and liable to be unsettling to some viewers.
Aside from the above-mentioned graphic content, there is some PG-13 brand profanity. While the cussing isn't constant, Colter screams a frustrated "F--- you!" to those running the Source Code at one point, while other objectionable words and phrases, including some blasphemy, is also used. Finally, there are two mild sexual references - one from a comedian making a joke during a comedy routine, and once where Colter tells Christina he dreamt about her and she takes it as meaning something sexual (which it wasn't).
The Source Code is a deep action thriller that fans of more mindbending and creative films like Inception should enjoy. While it's not a perfect film by any means, Source Code offers some great acting and edge-of-your-seat thrills that should have you guessing where it will go next up until its final moments.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/1/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
I did see Source Code in the theaters, so I found seeing it again on Blu-Ray disc to be just as enjoyable. Sometimes the movies that have constant repeats of the same events (like Vantage Point) can seem more tedious on the second viewing, but this wasn't the case for Source Code. The mind-bending aspect of the plot makes it a great second watch and I can see myself revisiting it more in the near future. In high definition, the picture looks crisp and clear with great, booming sound.
The special features on the BD are a bit thin. Unfortunately, Summit Entertainment does not offer a combo pack for this film, as it probably would be a cool one to have on a portable device, so instead, Source Code is available as a single-disc Blu-Ray only (a single-disc DVD is sold separately). In addition, there's a feature-length commentary from the film's director and writer as well as the main star, Jake Gyllenhaal himself. This is a nice feature since the film is so involved. When I watched this at home with my wife, who had not seen it in the theaters, she enjoyed it but was a little puzzled by the film's conclusion. I decided to replay the final chapter with the commentary on and it was not only really insightful, but also very entertaining to listen to the three men discuss the different interpretations of the ending and the original intentions of it. It's fascinating stuff and a great addition to the disc.
Access: Source Code - Aside from the commentary, there is only ONE special feature. Like Summit's release for RED, they give you an interactive featurette that plays during the movie... and only during the movie. You cannot watch these features apart from the film, which is very unfortunate (but obviously, you can watch the movie without these features). However, when this is activated, you can skip through the movie to the additional feature points when they pop up. I'll explain...
When you launch "Access: Source Code," you have five separate areas of bonus information that you can watch while watching the movie: "Focal Points," "Expert Intel," "Cast and Crew Insights," "Did You Know?," and "Tales of Time Travel." Before you launch "Access: Source Code," you can turn any one of these on or off. You can also do so while watching it. When "Access: Source Code" is turned on, a small HUD appears in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. This allows you to skip through the movie until the next data point or bring up a pop-up menu to turn on or off any of these individual data points. "Focal Points" are seemingly random instructional style videos that will pop up during the movie and tell you about something related to the film. For example, one will explain how memories can be cued through repetition and recognition, while another talks about the birth of flight simulators and their use in the military. "Expert Intel" are audio-only sound bytes that pop up throughout the film delivered by Sergei Gukov, a Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics at Caltech. All of Sergei's insights are theoretical and most are pretty absurd. At one point, he tries to explain the idea that there may be limitless parallel dimensions where there are other versions of ourselves and our locations but with only slight differences - like different weather in one version to the next. It's completely theoretical and really silly when you consider the fact that this guy is somehow an expert on imaginary, science fiction ideas. Nevertheless, it may be interesting to anyone even remotely intrigued by this kind of subject matter. "Did You Know?" are little pop-up factoids that appear in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and display really random facts. For example, when Christina's cell phone goes off, a factoid pops up about what song is used as the ringtone. Other factoids address completely random train facts, things about Chicago, sleep, coffee, etc. They're mostly pointless, however. "Tales of Time Travel" are also little pop-ups that list movies and TV shows that also deal with the topic of time travel. This really didn't need to be shown during the movie, but it's a nice resource for anyone looking for more time travel stories. Lastly, and my favorite of all of these, are the "Cast and Crew Insights." For these, a medium-sized pop-up video shows in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. All of these videos are worth watching as they show all of the main cast talking about their roles, the story, working with the director and with each other. Also included is quite a bit of on-set footage and even some footage of the cast goofing off or b-roll takes of scenes used in the final film. Since there are no other making-of features on the disc, these are the best ones to watch. It's nice that you can turn off the other 4 features in "Access..." and just skip through the movie until you get to these "Insights." I just wish they were separated into their own longer featurette that could be viewed in full screen and not just picture-in-picture with the feature film.
Source Code is a great action/suspense thriller with a solid story and lots to think about after the credits start rolling. The Blu-Ray disc could use a few more features, including making it so you don't have to watch the extras during the movie, but it's still a quality high-def transfer for a theatrical highlight of 2011.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/23/11)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Colter, when trying to tell her about the repeated trips into the source code, tells Christina he's been having dreams about her. She smiles, assuming they're sexual dreams, and he quickly and awkwardly says that they weren't like that, not that he wouldn't want them to be; A comedian makes a joke about his name being Denoff but his girl called him "Getoff" while they were making love (or something like that) and he says that she told him she wanted him to "Get off" of her.
1 "F" word, 6 "s" words, 4 "g*dd*mn," 3 "h*ll," 3 "*ssh*le," 1 "a" word, 3 "J-sus," 5 "d*mn," 1 "G-d," 1 "d*ck"
Blood/Gore: Colter punches a man in the face, giving him a bloody mouth; Colter has a bloody cut above his eye after being struck there; Colter leaps from a moving train and we see him tumble across the concrete ground before getting up all covering in scrapes and bloody cuts; A man is shot and there's some blood. A woman is shot and we see an aerial view of her lying on the ground with some blood under her head;
During some montages of the train exploding, we see fire engulfing passengers. In one instance we see Christina's face look distorted for a brief moment as the explosion consumes her; POSSIBLE SPOILERS: We see a man's head with part of it removed in the back, exposing his brain with wires coming from it. We later see a man lying shirtless in a sort of respirator bed. The lower half of their body is missing and we see the gory remains of half of their torso and a clear, foggy piece of glass or plastic shielding exposed organs. It's a very disturbing sight
Violence: Colter awakes on a train, entirely disoriented, and finds that after eight minutes it explodes, killing all of the passengers on board and he awakes again in a small capsule with only a monitor screen telling him what his mission is. We see the train explode again repeatedly throughout the film; Colter punches a man in the face after he isn't cooperating, causing him to have a bloody mouth; After Colter wrestles a suspect to the ground, he falls onto some train tracks and is struck (and killed) by a passing train; Colter tries to steal a gun from a restricted area on the train and gets knocked out. We then see him handcuffed to a pole with some blood above his eye; Colter grabs a guy's bag and rifles through it, pushing the suspect and throwing the contents of the bag everywhere; A man jumps from a moving train and we see his body roll and tumble across the concrete, but he lives; A person is shot a couple times and we see them lying on the ground, dying. Then a woman is shot and we see their eyes wide open frozen in a look of surprise as they lie dying; We see news footage of a man being arrested at gun point by authorities; POSSIBLE SPOILERS: There's talk about ending a person's life support; We see a man's head with part of it removed in the back, exposing his brain with wires coming from it. We later see a man lying shirtless in a sort of respirator bed. The lower half of their body is missing and we see the gory remains of half of their torso and a clear, foggy piece of glass or plastic shielding exposed organs. It's a very disturbing sight
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.