Virgin Review – Source Code

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…

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.

[pullquote]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?[/pullquote]

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.

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.

[pullquote position=”right”]Another interesting thing: Source Code is a  “Groundhog Day” film:…those same 8 minutes repeat infinitely until the mission is resolved.[/pullquote]

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.)


Related, on RunPee.com:

Movie review – Source Code

20 Groundhog Day Type Movies – The Ultimate Repeating Day Film List

 

20 Groundhog Day Type Movies – The Ultimate Repeating Day Film List

 

“There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

Groundhog Day is February 2nd in the US, and it’s a truly bizarre national holiday. The premise: a large rodent might/might not see its shadow, predicting when spring will or won’t come. How does one celebrate this, unless they live in Punxatawny, PA?

How long does it take to start thinking you are a god? To give up on unique ways to solve the day/kill yourself/become a better person? (Pay attention to the film and ask yourself how long it would take to master his many skills.)

Phil escapes the time loop only when certain conditions are met. We assume this, because it’s never stated why he finally moves on to the next day. However, the repeating day motif is not new to this movie, and in each instance, time repeats indefinitely until the protagonist finds a way out. The movie in question isn’t even the first film or TV show to feature this theme.

That makes it really fun each year. We at RunPee get to pick a rewatch of something with a distinct “Groundhog Day theme” every year in Feb. There’s an interesting lineage here. The theme actually starts with Star Trek: The Next Generation!


 Let’s take a look at who has used this Groundhog Day theme, in order by year.

Links added go to RunPee’s reviews. We hope to get them all reviewed eventually. One of these Groundhog Days we will! (Promise! Feb 2 does come ever year…) If we haven’t added some kind of commentary, we haven’t seen it. Feel free to instruct us in the comments below. 🙂

  1. Cause and Effect (TV ep, Star Trek, the Next Generation) 1992 — NOTE: Air date before Groundhog Day. Was this the first to do it? Here’s how it starts…right before the teaser ends we get this indelible image: Picard yelling for all hands to abandon the Enterprise. Then it explodes. And keeps on exploding. From there, the mystery never lets up on this superb storytelling. I don’t think any TV episode gave me chills like this before in my young life. It still works.
  2. Groundhog Day — Feature Film — 1993 : When I Iived that year in the UK, this  first-run movie saved my sanity. For real. Long story.
  3. Been There, Done That (TV ep, Xena: Warrior Princess) 1997 : This show could do no wrong in my eyes during it’s 7-year run. It’s only natural that Xena’s version is funnier than EVERYTHING else on this list. Plus, we’ve got Romeo and Juliette being dorks,  a laundry list of reasons why Xena didn’t bite Gabrielle (lol), a name drop of Hercules (and Sinbad), and an adorable cameo by Karl Urban as Cupid. A top ten Xena ep anyone can enjoy.
  4. Run, Lola, Run — Feature Film —  1998: Although the movie is a scant eighty minutes, you feel like you’ve been on a journey by the end of it.  Tykwer uses music, sound effects, and editing, to make you feel both the pressure Lola is under, and all the ground she is covering. It’s very effective. 
  5. Back and Back and Back to the Future (TV ep, Farscape) 1999: set in the mostly benighted season one of an otherwise stellar Sci-Fi show, Back and Back is notable for Crichton’s trying to change the timeline in small ways (breaking Zhan’s sacred mask on purpose, instead of letting time inevitably play out).
  6. Monday (TV ep, The X-Files) 1999: You don’t think there’s a mystery trope left examined in the X-Files 9 year run? Look again. Notable: a guest actor is at the center of the plot, with Mulder and Scully mostly in reaction mode…and it STILL works. A standout during a mostly experimental season.
  7. Life Serial (TV ep, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) 2001 : In Buffy’s sixth season, “real life” was the scary big bad. Shudders! This episode was a needed dash of fun. The “Trio” are nerdy doofuses with too much power and no real direction. I love everything in this season, and this is a highlight.
  8. Deja vu All Over Again (TV ep, Charmed) 2008
  9. Mystery Spot (TV ep, Supernatural) — 2008
  10.  Source Code — Feature Film– 2011: A soldier wakes up in someone else’s body and discovers he’s part of an experimental government program to find the bomber of a commuter train. A mission he has only 8 minutes to complete.
  11. Edge of Tomorrow –Feature Film — (Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt film) 2014 : Exciting, well-acted, and with a gripping jeopardy premise, Cruise and Blunt take what could have been a two-hour slog of repeating action into something believably exciting in a fresh take on an alien takeover plot. Highly Recommended! Every time they ‘”level up” you want to cheer! Also: theme song Love Me Again deserves a spot on any movie lover’s playlist: lyrics and movie video here. 
  12. Hell is Other People  (The Vampire Diaries) — 2016
  13. Before I Fall  — Feature Film — 2017: Another mystery that must be solved before time moves on. Well written, well acted, well directed. It surprised us.
  14. Happy Death Day  and the sequel — Original Feature Film — 2017: Imagine relieving your death, over and over? Want to try? Neither do we. (Awesome movie, though!) NEW article: All the clues to the killer in Happy Death Day (Spoilers!)
  15. Hot Mess Time Machine (TV ep, The Mindy Project) — 2017
  16. Naked — (Netflix show) — 2017 – YAY! A new one to check out!
  17. Dr. Strange  — Feature Film — 2017: I don’t know if this should be included, so I’ll toss it up and let you decide. At the end of the film, Strange wears down his enemy using an infinite time loop of destruction. He could stop it at any point, so it’s not like the other plots. Does this count?
  18. Russian Doll – A new and exciting dark comedy Netflix series that’s somewhere in between Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day. (2019)
  19.  Travelers has a great, unique take on this now too!  It streams on Netflix….
  20. Looper  — Feature Film — 2012: In a future where time travel is a thing, not everyone has the best intentions. [ED NOTE:  I just watched this one, and Looper is not a GHD movie. So I’ll make my virgin review on Looper soon — it’s a good movie — but I need to take this film off this particular list. 

At RunPee HQ we’ve been collecting movies and TV episodes with Groundhog Day themes, and make a point to choose at least one each year to rewatch on each Groundhog Day.  I mean, hey: what else are you going to do to celebrate how vermin might predict the weather?

So, did we miss something? We’re always looking to add new shows to celebrate on this obscure, yet infinitely geeky holiday. I’m sure this fascinating well of plots hasn’t dried out just yet. The recent and finely wrought Edge of Tomorrow indicates there are still ideas to be mined.

Movie Review – Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat.)

Edge of Tomorrow – Lyrics and Video to Love Me Again – A Kickin’ Action GroundHog Day Themed Movie

Movie Review – Happy Death Day – Very Fun, Almost Cute Horror Film

Happy Death Day – All the Clues to the Killer (SPOILERS)

Movie Review – Looper

Virgin Review – Source Code

Movie Review – Before I Fall

Run Lola Run – A Rewind Review for a Rewind Loop Film