Source Code (2011) is based off yet another story by Philip K. Dick, always an excellent go-to for exciting mind-bending films about space, time, and supra-realities. Look at past movies mining P.K. Dick: Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, and Paycheck. I know I’m missing others, but the point is he’s a reliable “source” (ha!) for trippy film themes.This movie also has filmatic roots harkening to the nature of reality, a la The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Existenz, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, and especially Inception. Are you in the real world, or a simulation? Does it even matter?
There’s a few surprises in this one, and I won’t spoil them here. I will admit the ending has you questioning what really happened, and if multiple timelines 1. exist and 2. interact. That’s all you need to keep in mind when you watch this.
Jake Gyllnehall does a nice enough job in the lead role. In fact, he’s pretty much the ONLY “real” role in Source Code, as the entire affair rests on his shoulders. Other characters have supporting and walk-on parts, as befits a film about one man trying to understand his existence. He’s sucked into being a hero and fed clues very slowly. Essentially, WE are the character of Colter Stevens, tossed about by shadowy figures with an agenda. This agenda includes both saving the world, and possibly ending it. I’ll say no more.
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As befits an existential, non-futuristic movie, the style is spare and straightforward. The real meat lies in what’s beyond the things we view over the course of 8 minute periods. The director’s hand is only seen in quickly flashing “reboots” between the character’s deaths and rebirths. Pay attention to the iconic sculpture of The Bean in Chicago, and its fun-house mirror symbolism.Another interesting thing: Source Code is a “Groundhog Day” film: those same 8 minutes repeat infinitely until the mission is resolved.
Altogether, Source Code kept my attention from the very start, and had me guessing ’til the end. Actually, I’m still guessing — the ending owes a big debt to Inception. Teachers could use this film for courses about philosophy and the nature of reality: What are we? Do our thoughts create our existence? Do multiple timelines exist? And the big one — can we change the past by traveling through time?
If you like those kind of puzzles, Source Code is well worth watching. There’s a tiny bit of humor sprinkled here and there, and Gyllnehall does confusion, irritation, and determination quite well. There’s no razzle dazzle in this flick, but it still has substance. Recommended.
Movie Grade: B
(PS: My mother insists I say she thought Source Code deserves an A. I’m a harsher critic.)
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)