Directed by Duncan Jones
A gripping and gooey sci-fi thriller about fate, do-overs, and not sweating the small stuff, Source Code is like Groundhog Day, if it had been written during the War on Terror by Philip K. Dick. Using the titular technology, the U.S. military sends the consciousness of helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) into the body of a passenger on a terrorist-targeted commuter train, eight minutes before it exploded. Source Code isn't time travel; it's more like simulation, because Colter can't change what happened. (He's supposed to identify the bomber, so authorities can nab him in the post-explosion present.) Like an avatar unloosed in Liberty City, however, he can endlessly explore this recreated world, choosing every possible adventure, perpetually revisiting every detail of the eight-minute mystery.
That is, Source Code is like the mind of The Writer (screenplay by Ben Ripley), and Source Code a movie about the storyteller's craft: who are these characters, and what are they capable of? Colter plays out a scene—which, at eight minutes, is not much shorter than a reel of film—and then goes back to his godhead (either the Scrooge-like Jeffrey Wright, as the "director," or Vera Farmiga as his assistant) for "notes": instructions on how he might do it differently this time. They try take after take, each with significant variations, until they get it right. That doesn't just mean catching the bomber: the eerie anxiety of Source Code's opening gradually gives way to soft, sweet, silly sentimentality, as Colter becomes committed not only to saving the train (though he can't... can he?) but also the day of every stressed-out commuter on it. One of the movie's last images shows two characters kissing amid guffawing passengers, recalling the screening that concludes Preston Sturges' pro-laughter classic, Sullivan's Travels: for the filmmakers, "getting it right" also includes transforming the solemn sci-fi thriller into a romantic comedy.
Opens April 1