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Ten Word or Less Review:  A head trip.  Literally.

Source Code is likely to drive detail oriented people up a wall in multiple dimensions.  Time travel movies are always a slippery slop of logic and implausibilities and Code ups the ante considerably with a concept which isn’t really time travel as much as mind travel.   Though many will quibble about what kind of sense it ultimately makes, probably none, Source Code is an entertaining science fiction work which keeps the mind working and the senses stimulated with a story that goes more than just boom. Though going boom is at the center of the story.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Colter, a man who wakes up on a train across from a pretty girl, Michelle Monaghan, and is utterly befuddled how he got there.  She knows him.   She’s telling him about herself as if she knows him fairly well.   But Colter is at a total loss as to how he arrived at this point.   After fumbling around he winds up in the toilet looking at the mirror and seeing another man’s face in the reflection.   With no idea what’s happening Colter thinks his grasp on reality is slipping away.   Then things get really weird . The train explodes killing everyone and Colter promptly wakes up inside a capsule being asked questions by a woman in army garb named Goodwin, (Vera Farmiga).   His last memory before the train is of being in a helicopter in Afghanistan.   What’s slowly explained to Colter is that he’s participating in a time experiment and the clock is ticking.  A terrorist has detonated a bomb on a train on its way to Chicago and is now threatening a much larger explosion.  Colter’s mind is being transported to the mind of a man who was on the train before it exploded.  While there he can observe everything for the 8 minutes prior to the explosion.   Colter is tasked with finding the terrorist before he strikes again.   And if this makes no sense to you at all don’t worry, it’s all put together with a lot of conviction and determination to making it feel legit.   Even though it probably isn’t Source Code never feels like a cheat.

Source Code is brought to us by newcomer Duncan Jones.  Jones appeared the year before last with his first feature Moon, a wildly overpraised sci-fi film which was transparent, dingy and tensionless.  Some thought it was genius.   I thought it was akin to looking at drab wallpaper after too much to drink.   Source Code is a far more involving and emotionally accessible piece.  While the logic that drives it forward seems wholly questionable, it plows ahead secure in its concept.   Sometimes the best thing a sci-fi gimmick like this can have is unwavering confidence in itself.   Getting bogged down in logistics and minutia can quickly strangle things.   Jones goes for a more emotional through line which pays off more than a logical one.   Having a good cast helps things remain convincing and grounded.

Jake Gyllenhaal adds another high caliber performance to his roster.   The movie takes his character to some strange places, weirdly echoing Donnie Darko in a spiritual sense, minus Donnie’s teenage gloominess.  Michelle Monaghan, woefully misused in Hollywood, has a part which seems pretty thankless.   She basically has to play the same scene over and over with varying differences but still manages to instill a lot with redundent stuff to work with.  Vera Farmiga (The Departed) creates an empathetic character by having little more to do than stare into a camera for the duration of the film.   And Jeffrey Wright skulks around with a cane, ostensibly playing the mad scientist out to prove his contraption works.

Source Code will be dismissed by some because it’s not that hard to dismiss on a certain level of coherence.   Instead of following the emotions at work they’ll get entangled in the web that is its time travel scenario and once lost in the finer details throw a fit at the movie’s expense.   I doubt Jones and company really care all that much if their movie holds up to intense scrutiny, what’s more important is that the film work within the emotional demands that the story sets out in front of them and in that case I think it works quite well.   You can spend all day worrying if things make sense but if you don’t care who it’s all happening to, then what’s the point?

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