A good story that feels like what would result if the movie Groundhog Day and the Twilight Zone had a love child.
Source Code is a very unusual movie, it starts out like a darker version of Groundhog Day, with a story very reminiscent of an episode of the Twilight Zone, that segues into a love story with a happy ending for a guy who is nearly dead when the movie begins. Source Code is a 2011 French-American science fiction film directed by Duncan Jones, written by Ben Ripley, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farming, and Jeffery Wright.
The story begins when U.S. Army pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), last aware of being on a mission in Afghanistan, abruptly, and inexplicably, wakes up on a commuter train to Chicago, at 7:40 am. To the world around him, including his traveling partner Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), and the bathroom mirror, he appears to be Sean Fentress, a school teacher. As he comes to grips with this revelation, the train explodes, killing everyone aboard.
The movie is remarkable in that it repeats this scenario several times without becoming offensively dull and redundant, but to the contrary, becomes more interesting with each time the story repeats itself. it is slowly revealed Colter is part of an experiment that allows him to visit an alternate version of reality that has already taken place in real time, and in the real world. He has eight minutes to solve a deadly puzzle.
To Colter, when he is not experiencing this dream-like-experience, he is in some sort of capsule or small compartment, but in reality he is close to death and inhabits a small sort of locker where his remains are sheltered and on life support. After each time he dies in the train explosion he is able to communicate with a woman who refers to herself as Beleaguered Castle (Vera Farmiga as Capt. Colleen Goodwin), this is his only contact with the outside world, except for the scientist in charge of the experiment, Dr Rutledge (Jeffery Wright)
He visits the other reality, it is in the person of someone else, whose body he inhabits in a way, the process he goes through somehow causes this to happen, so when he is in this alternate reality he is not himself but another person entirely, but still himself in his mind. If this sounds confusing it somehow works and makes more sense in the movie.
As the story develops, mystery and tension build to the point it seems that Colter is going crazy, and indeed, he begins to do crazy things, including physically attacking people aboard the train. He is part of a search for a domestic terrorist who is responsible for blowing up a train full of people going to Chicago, and who also is planning another, even more deadly, act of terrorism in the city itself later the same day.
His search for the bomber fails again and again, concluding with Colter, and the other passengers on the train being blown up over and over again. Eventually, slowly, Colter begins to make sense of what he dealing with, and begins to get closer to solving the mystery of finding the guilty party, finding more clues each time until he finally confronts the bomber, who gets the drop on him, and he fails again.
There is exposition in the dialogue that attempts to explain it all, but it only serves as an attempt to legitimize what is is basically a fairy tale about a second chance for a hero to get a shot at happiness after nearly dying a terrible death as a result of being in a war half a world away. The title, Source Code, is explained here as having to do with quantum physics, and a form of time travel. Trust me, trying to understand the stuff they throw out there by way of explanation will only give you a headache, so its best to just enjoy the movie and story, for the entertainment and happy ending they provide.
While all this is going on he strikes up a friendship with a woman who is acquainted with the person he vicariously inhabits, and despite himself he begins to get to know her, and like her, and by the end of the film they are an item, and romance is budding into bloom. This adds charm to the film, and by giving it a more humanizing slant, offers a nice counterpoint to the grim main story of the plot.
Revisiting this film, I liked it a lot (again), it never seems stupid or insulting to my intelligence in any way, although thinking about it, it seems it would be easy for it fall into that hole, but that is something it somehow manages to avoid. There are questions regarding the ending, that for me, would not withstand too close an examination, but I figure why bother doing that? It would only result in sucking all the enjoyment out of the film.
This is not the first time we have seen a story where the protagonist has the ability to choose between ‘reality’ and what appears to be a dream or fantasy world. This is an ending that says love conquers all. It may be a fairy tale, but it is an enjoyable, and charming one, and makes for a smart, entertaining, suspenseful, science fiction thriller as well.