Here’s the setup: We have a kind of memory buffer in our brains and when we die, the last eight minutes of our life are available for analysis. Inject a detective into that memory and they can figure out what caused your death. Unlikely? Yeah, but it works as the premise of the cool new sci-fi thriller Source Code.
The film opens on a commuter train heading into downtown Chicago. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is confused: he’s talking to the attractive Christine (Michelle Monaghan) but has no idea who she is, where he is, and what the heck’s going on. He looks in the mirror and it’s someone else’s face looking back at him. What the heck?
Then the bomb hidden on the train explodes.
Turns out that Stevens is an Air Force chopper pilot who is taking part in the Source Code experiment, as his project handler Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) gradually explains to him. His experience doesn’t matter, however, as amoral project scientist and inventor Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) explains to him, all that matters is that he go back into that eight minutes prior to the bomb exploding, again and again, until he figures out where the bomb is and who planted it.
Sounds kinda like Deja Vu or Vantage Point? Both are apt comparisons, but Source Code is more compelling and more interesting, and the gradual effect of his constant jumps back into the pre-explosion alternate world and growing understanding of the people on the train and what motivates each of them all make sense within the framework of the film.
It’s not a perfect film, but coming from the capable hands of director Duncan Jones (whose last film was the splendid Moon), it’s smart, stylish, and appealing. You can almost forgive the overly sappy ending that makes it a pretty decent date film too.