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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Source Code

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Source Code

What would you do with a recurring eight minutes?  End an argument differently?  Go back over your LSAT test questions more thoroughly?  Work on relationship issues?

For Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) the decision’s already been made for him.  He’ll return again and again to a Chicago-bound commuter train and find the bomb (and bomber) that destroyed it.

Along the multiple journeys, Stevens finds that he is not himself literally and that he is accompanied by Christina (Michelle Monaghan) a female companion that knows him – but she’s a total stranger to the soldier who thinks he’s just flown Afghanistan missions two days before.  He does remember that he’s got a strained relationship with his father Don (Scott Bakula, voice).

The situation is explained to him by mysterious Air Force officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and disabled scientist Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) over a small video screen in the high tech interior chamber where the time traveler wakes up between forays.  Stevens never comes face to face with those who command his destiny (past and future).  He is continually sent back to the doomed train with minimal information and cryptic references to project names like “Beleaguered Castle.”  Confused?  So is Stevens.

Demanding an explanation from Rutledge, Stevens finds out that Source Code is a form of time reassignment and is likened to quantum physics and parabolic calculus.  In other words, just accept that it exists and enjoy the dangerous ride into time travel and alternate realities.  For both Stevens and the viewer, probing questions just get in the way.

Stevens’ repeat journeys on the bomb-laden train inch him closer to discovery about both his mission and Christina, making him much more invested in the two.  She knows him as Sean, a great pal with romantic possibilities.  Of course this complicates matters and also clarifies them for Stevens, who seeks to chart his own course for the train, even though it is on literal and figurative tracks.

Gyllenhaal gets the audience as involved as he is in the tense mission “rehearsals”.  Monaghan smiles a lot so we know she’s really, really nice.  Farmiga, as usual, has that ethereal, other-worldly look and penetrating gaze that works so well in roles where credibility is crucial.  Jeffrey Wright’s Rutledge provides the well-meaning scientist figure who threatens everyone’s happiness with shortsightedness and misguided directives.

Director Duncan Jones keeps the suspense taut from start to finish with his own version of “Ground Control to Major Tom,” father David Bowie’s hit that he brings to life (sort of).  The whole premise incorporates elements of Groundhog Day, Avatar, Surrogates and Johnny Got his Gun (also Quantum Leap as evidenced by Scott Bakula’s voice cameo).  Jones helms an ambitious effort with inventive aplomb, the cinematic equivalent of a page-turner.

It’s an irresistible proposition, getting a second (and third and fourth, and fifth…) chance to do something over and over until you get it right in a world where “do-overs” are not only allowed, but expected.  Source Code addresses the old adages “If at first you don’t succeed,” and “If I knew then what I know now,” in exciting extrapolations: one train, one track, several possibilities.

A duck’s river flight, spilled coffee, a cell phone call, and a train full of commuters beginning another work day.  Seems ordinary enough.  Just give it eight minutes and see what happens.  If you’re disappointed – or even dead  - give it another eight.  Déjà vu is a fellow passenger with an endless ticket to ride.

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