Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga
Watching Duncan Jones’ Source Code feels like watching an entirely plagiarized film. In 2006, Denzel Washington starred in Tony Scott’s Déjà vu — a film where his character attempts to change his past through time travel.
Source Code is essentially this same concept — scientists find a way to observe a past terrorist event and a police officer must try to find the bomber. At the same time he becomes emotionally connected to the suspects he’s watching.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) stars as a celebrated war hero who wakes up in the body of a man named Sean Fentress eight minutes before a terrorist attack destroys the train he’s on. He then awakens in a chamber where he is welcomed by Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffery Wright), who explain he is being sent on a mission.
Stevens is instructed to continue searching the train to find the bomber by reliving the last eight minutes of Fentress’ life. On the train he meets Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who he falls in love with as he plays through the repetition of the terrorist attack.
Jones is a gifted director. His 2009 motion picture Moon was an acclaimed science fiction film. Much like Moon, Source Code is well-made. The performances are solid, the plot is well-executed and it’s definitely entertaining. There are some surprising twists during the second act, but the third act is sadly predictable.
The main problem with Source Code is there is no originality in the way the subject matter is presented. Déjà Vu featured several amazing scenes, including a chase scene in which Denzel Washington’s character must pursue a car from four days ago while dodging the present day’s traffic. Source Code is comparably uninspired and doesn’t use its premise to create scenes nearly as exciting.
Save for a few differences in plot, there’s not a single element in this film that hasn’t been taken from Scott’s earlier work. Both films involve a character falling in love with a dead woman and believing they can somehow save her from the tragedy that killed her.
Both films feature characters that taunt others by reciting dialogue from a past time ine. Finally, both films involve a premise based on preposterous but fictionally acceptable logic. Unfortunately Source Code chooses to abuse this premise to produce a ridiculous ending.
The film makes sense until the ending. Around the end of the second act, the film loses the scientific element of its premise and allows characters to abuse the boundaries of the time frames established in the first part of the film.
Ultimately Source Code is a good film. If it didn’t feel like a plagiarized version of Scott’s work, it would merit a three and a half star review. Unfortunately, Source Code doesn’t have enough originality to garner that praise.
If it stuck with the restrictions of the science it used to create the plot, it would be a great film. However, the slip-up in Source Code provides a textbook Hollywood ending, effectively throwing the audience back into a loop of silly, unrealistic science fiction.