Source Code a sci-fi that knows how to have fun

Warning: This review contains


Alternate realities are a staple theme in all-too-many science fiction movies. So is time travel. “Source Code” puts both into play and through some miracle it works because it doesn’t seem tired at any point. It’s actually pretty interesting.

Of course, there’s no such thing as alternate universes or time travel. Not today, anyway. Check again next week. But that doesn’t matter to writer Ben Ripley or director Duncan Jones. They’re not trying for an overly realistic experiment here. That’s what’s so fun. It’s smart but no thinker. Mix in a few ground-breaking visuals and who wouldn’t have a good time with that.

Another reason I stuck with this movie is its small-scope feel. There’s a relatively small cast, mostly confined to small area. I like stories like that. Don’t get me wrong, this is no small movie. It just reminds me of one. It brings up the feeling of the small sci-fi flicks that led me to pick up a video camera for the first time.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Capt. Colter Stevens, or so he thinks at first. That thought’s thrown for a loop right out of the gate when he catches his reflection and a beautiful stranger on a train (they’re always beautiful) knows him by another name.

The strangeness deepens when the train explodes and he wakes up in a secret military location. No time for questions before he’s zapped right back where he started with another eight minutes before the train goes up in smoke again. Of course, first he has to reacquaint himself with his new friend.

This turns into “Groundhog Day’s” worst nightmare. The captain will keep being sent back to that time until he learns the identity of the one responsible for bombing the train. The science project behind the time travel only gives him eight minutes, so it’s trial and error until he finds the bomber, dying each time with everyone else. He’ll just get sent back. They can keep this up all day.

I can see why Jones would be attracted to this script. His earlier movie “Moon” also dealt with a strong science fiction theme involving people trying to figure out who they really are and what the heck’s going on with this world. Characters who wake up in Duncan Jones’ movies really ought to realize they’re not who they think they are.

Another interesting comparison to “Moon” I found was the theme of “you’re not going anywhere.” The astronaut from the earlier film was stuck in a lunar mining station and thought he’d be leaving shortly once his job wass done. Capt. Stevens thinks so too. The ominous figures in charge keep telling him that. He can’t run away while back in time because it’s not a real back in time. Moments he’s in the real word show him stuck in a pod, waiting for his next warp. The ending fully enforces the stuck theme with a fascinating visual I didn’t see coming, even though I guessed what was in the corner. See if you can.


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