Source Code

(2011) *** Pg-13
94 min. Summit Entertainment, LLC. Director: Duncan Jones. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden.

/content/films/4089/1.jpgLike his previous film Moon, Duncan Jones' Source Code has a Twilight Zone-esque science-fiction premise, twist included. So it's best for me to be vague, though it's no secret that the plot involves a man experiencing, several times over, the eight minutes preceding the terrorist bombing of a Chicago-bound commuter train. The man, Afghanistan veteran Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), achieves this near-future voodoo as an agent of a secret, experimental governmental program that jacks him into the past-life body of one of the commuters. So comparisons to Groundhog Day (or should I say 12:01, Déjà Vu, or Minority Report?) and Quantum Leap are fair game—especially in the latter case, since Jones winkingly gives a key vocal cameo to Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula.

Stevens turns out to be a disoriented and largely reluctant anti-terrorist operative (add 12 Monkeys to the running list...), but his handlers—sincere Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and ambitious Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright)—sway him with reminders of his work and its urgency. This is bigger than him—lives are at stake, as the terrorist has promised a second, iminent bombing. Our hero can prevent that catastrophe if he can identify the terrorist, despite the seemingly Sisyphean frustration of the eight-minute windows afforded to Stevens. There's also a significant recurring distraction in that the man whose body Stevens inhabits—one Sean Fentress—has a beautiful seatmate named Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who Colter absurdly begins to see as a potential soulmate. Colter faces the mother of all romantic obstacles: Christina—like everyone else on the train—is dead. Still, Stevens becomes obsessed with the notion that he can not only find the terrorist, but prevent what has already happened. The technobabble by which Rutledge explains Stevens' trips into lingering memory don't, in the scientist's mind, constitute time travel, per se; still, the eight-minute spans certainly seem palpably real to Stevens, who determines to develop his own alternate timeline.

Aside from the avoidance of tragedy and the embrace of romance, an additional motivation to rewrite history emerges for Stevens. That would be telling, as they say, but the high stakes give Source Code drive and intensity above and beyond the action mechanics of fist fights, gunfire, and explosions. It's all rather threadbare in story terms, but Ben Ripley's script is strong on plotting. Since Source Code is philosophical science fiction and not just "sci fi," there's something to chew on here about consciousness: when it begins and ends, and that old chestnut of what constitutes reality. The picture is also surprisingly emotional, partly due to the value added by moony-eyed Gyllenhaal and Farmiga. The trappings dole out thrills, but the glue of Source Code is in the characters and their aching relationships. Jones' latest won't win any awards for plausibility—even on its own terms, the story stands on wobbly ground—but suspension of disbelief can be the best friend of suspense (...and romance...and drama). Given these actors and Jones' sure hand behind the camera, it's worth "going there" with Source Code.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 7/26/2011

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

/content/films/4089/2.jpgSource Code looks and sounds clean and crisp on Blu-ray. The tight and colorful image loses nothing in translation to home video, with fine marks for texture and detail, as well as black level, and a light grain that keeps the proceedings from feeling too digital. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix offers plenty of oomph in the action sequences, and nice body to the music, as well as crystal-clear dialogue and careful placement for the overall immersive effect.

Bonus features are limited to two, but they're quality extras. The first is an audio commentary track with director Duncan Jones, Jake Gyllenhaal, and writer Ben Ripley. The trio reflects on the project's background and evolution, characters and themes, and process of taking the idea from script to screen (including the production and post-production challenges). Summit has also provided one of their Access PiP tracks, this one aptly named Access: Source Code. This playback option includes EPK-style interviews with the cast, expert testimony on time travel, B-roll, and trivia.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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