Colter Stevens wakes up on a train leading into Chicago, completely unaware of his surroundings. He's sitting across from a woman who calls him Sean. If things weren't confusing before, a few moments later the train explodes. Colter wakes up in a cluttered room full of computer equipment. Capt. Colleen Goodwin explains over a camera connection to Stevens that he's just relived the last eight minutes in the life of one Sean Fentress before a terror attack occurred. Turns out Colter is in a secret military project named "Source Code" to discover who set off the bomb. Capt. Goodwin explains that the train exploded because of a bomb, and that the bomber plans to hit Chicago unless he can be stopped. It's up to Colter to continually relieve those 8 minutes over, trying to uncover the bomber.
Oh, Jake Gyllenhaal. You've come a long way from talking to guys in rabbit suits and banging Heath Ledger. Directed by Duncan Jones, SOURCE CODE debuted at number two at the box office earlier this year, and earned a respectable $154 million. I'll be honest, I never saw the film in theatres. And after seeing Jones' previous effort, the sci-fi drama MOON, trust me when I say that I wanted to, knowing it would be an awesome film. Man, I love it when I'm right.
Despite the film's confusing beginning, the story crafted by Ben Ripley is a simple one: Colter must repeatedly travel back in time to prevent disaster. Sort of a GROUNDHOG DAY with explosions. What's great is that even with that explanation, from the beginning of the film, we as the viewers are in the dark just like Colter. We find out the information just as he does. And when it clicks, it all makes sense. Bingo! Instant attention-capture. The film isn't your straight-up 'blowing sh*t up' movie that panders to those who turn off their brain (not that there's anything wrong with that, from time to time). Rather, it wracks your brain and makes you think a la another recent thriller fave of mine, INCEPTION.
Acting-wise, Jakey boy makes this film. Gyllenhaal presents Colter as a man unsure of his reality, no matter what the situation, yet at the same time able to adapt and roll with it. Between him sweating like a hooker in church on the train or his frustration at the boiling point each time he's kicked back into the Source Code room, it's a wonder that the guy just doesn't flip off the Capt. Goodwin and walk out. Speaking of which, the back-and-forth between Gyllenhaal's Colton and Vera Farmiga's Goodwin is great to see. It also dances a bit on the emotional side, with Goodwin's character being a fellow soldier with obligations, but at the same time reluctantly withholding information from Colton. Altogether, the environment of the situation and the character interactions is filled with that delightful tension we go nuts over.
Does this code need debugging? Well, the film's budget shows itself in the effects at times. Unfortunately, it shows itself in the explosions that occur on the train, which is obviously a central part of the entire film. Also, the film's science is kind of iffy, as is the film's ending which isn't quite as satifying on the emotional level as you'd hope. But even with those minor glitches, the film is still a treat for those looking to excercise their brain as well as having great vested interest in the characters. Between Ripley's simple premise that is expanded upon tenfold and Gyllenhaal's great performance, you can't go wrong with SOURCE CODE.
Video: The film is presented in an 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that exhibits strong details and some great color saturation. Obviously, this isn't the Blu-Ray version of the film, but it's still damn impressive.
Audio: Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track was great. Dialogue is clear and distortion-free, and exhibits the excellent and vigorous score by Chris Bacon. Surrounds get in the most during the action-heavy scenes, and contribute to an overall strong audio track.
First up is audio commentary with director Duncan Jones, Jake Gyllenhaal, and writer Ben Ripley. Jones and Gyllenhaal trade stories about their experiences working on the film, as well as discussing Gyllenhaal's performance. Ripely, on the other hand, chimes in with a few insightful points here and there. The track overall is feels subdued, but is a nice companion piece for the film.
Following that is a trivia track that plays throughout the movie, dropping general trivia nuggets like shooting locations and specifics about the production.
Cast Insights combines film footage with interviews of the cast discussing their co-stars. There are a few interesting pieces that come out of these, along with the expected praising of co-stars.
Finally there's Focal Points, which is a series of animated shorts on topics such as Quantum Physics, the Many Worlds Theory, military use of virtual reality and others. It's interesting stuff, but you kind of wish that there was a documentary that was more devoted to the film's production.
Also, despite the start-up trailer for THE THREE MUSKETEERS, there's no trailer for SOURCE CODE, which is a piss-off. The case is housed in an embossed slipcase that mimics the from artwork.
With a simple yet engaging story and some strong performances, SOURCE CODE is a thinking person's action thriller. While the film's budget shows itself in the effects, the story and characters will inevitably overshadow and draw you into the film. The DVD sports great audio and video, with some good supplements including a good commentary from the film's director, writer and main actor.