You need a doctorate in metaphysics to make any sense of it at all.
When, on a nice evening at the movies, we are confronted with trailers for
Priest, X-Men, and Thor, we know another violent movie summer is at hand.
It's enough to make movie lovers wish away the summer and long for November.
One movie that seemed to fall with promise into the spring transition period is Source Code, billed in the hype as a thinking man's action movie. If I tell you that this one has an intriguing initial premise and three good performances by appealing actors, you will be justified in questioning my lukewarm enthusiasm. It's because I didn't understand it. The truth of it is that you need a doctorate in metaphysics to make any sense of it at all.
A step at a time: a perfectly sensible young man named Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is caught in a military intelligence operation to stop a terrorist attack on Chicago. His consciousness (stay with me) has been inserted into the identity of a host man who is a passenger on a commuter train that has just been blown up. In this borrowed identity of a passenger who probably saw the bomber, Colter has just eight minutes to identify the terrorist in order to forestall a second, bigger attack.
Good news first: Jake Gllenhaal (as Colter), Michelle Monaghan (as Christina, the girl on the train), and Vera Farmiga (as Captain Goodwin, Mike's military handler) hold our attention until complexity swallows the movie and loses us all. Don't underestimate the complexity. It is assumed that we have a good grasp of the meaning of a parallel universe as well as a basic understanding of quantum mechanics and parabolic calculus - because these are the things that the mad scientist Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright in a genuinely creepy performance) has used to create his Source Code system, a system that promises to be the ultimate weapon in preventing terrorist attacks worldwide. Source Code, you see, is not time travel. It is Reassignment, the reassignment of one person into the identity of another. Hang on to the concept of a parallel universe; it will serve you well toward the end. Although things move at breakneck speed, you will likely be exhausted from heavy duty thinking.
Vera Farmiga's proper military officer is terrific as she succumbs to compassion while sending Colter back to the about-to-be-blown-up train over and over to find the bomber. You will smile at Colter's comment, "Please don't blow me up again," and wince at Dr. Rutledge's ironic "Theory of Rubble" which holds that if his Source Code is to work, a city must first be reduced to rubble.
Does the movie redeem itself? Not really, but look for the small jewels: gorgeous photography of Chicago; genuine chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Farmiga and Gyllenhaal and Monaghan; and for explosion lovers, you get to see that beautiful train blow up four times. Whatever did we do for special effects before Bill Gates made the preposterous possible?
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