Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 14
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

THE LAST THING I REMEMBER IS TRYING TO GET MY HELICOPTER FLYING: Helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is trying to repair his helicopter which has been shot down by the Taliban forces in Afghanistan while he was on a rescue mission. He blacked out and thanks to a top secret military operation called Source Code, the next time he awoke he found himself on a train to Chicago trying to prevent a terrorist from blowing up the train.

The Source Code Wounded War Veteran Tracks Terrorist in Science Fiction Thriller

Kam Williams

Air Force Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) had been comatose ever since his helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission in Afghanistan. Colter had no way of knowing that while he was in this vegetative state he was being evaluated for the “Source Code” operation, a top secret program that would enable him to take over another person’s brain.

And exactly how will this superhuman feat be accomplished? Why with the help of a theory that involves “very complicated quantum mechanics” and the use of “parabolic calculus,” explains project supervisor Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) in incomprehensible pseudo-scientific terms.

And so a couple of months later, when a terrorist (Michael Arden) detonates an explosive that kills everybody aboard a train that was headed for Chicago, Captain Stevens’s suspended mind is chosen to be used in a mission to avert the consequences of the disaster. The military has six hours to prevent the crazy madman from following through with his next threat to kill millions by detonating a dirty bomb in downtown Chicago.

Dr. Rutledge directs his assistant Carol (Vera Farmiga) to plant Colter’s mind into the brain of Sean Fentress (Frederick De Grandpre), a history teacher who perished in the explosion of the ill-fated train. Carol adjusts the Source Code’s equipment to teleport Colter’s brain to a point precisely eight minutes prior to the railway explosion. His subconsciously planted assignment in those eight minutes is to determine which of his fellow passengers set off the explosion.

When Colter awakes, he has to make the mental adjustment back to the present, since the last thing he remembered from his former life was fighting the Taliban. Between this new reality and also by being distracted by Christina (Michelle Monaghan), an attractive woman sitting across the aisle, the allotted time elapses in a flash and the bomb goes off again.

However, with the Source Code’s equipment, Colter can be given another eight-minute chance to avert the impending disaster, and another, and another, if need be. In each eight minute period, he discovers more clues and gradually closes in on the villain. In addition, in each session Colter develops feelings for Christina, which leads viewers to wonder whether a romance that develops during the repeated episodes will last when the disaster is ultimately thwarted.

Directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), The Source Code is a science fiction adventure predicated on a premise that works only if you never pause to consider its plausibility. Fortunately, the story unfolds so quickly that it is easy to forget just how preposterous the plot is.

Taking elements from films and TV programs such as Groundhog Day, Memento, Avatar, The Twilight Zone, and The Manchurian Candidate, the film even pays homage to Ronald Reagan’s signature line “Where’s the rest of me?” from the movie King’s Row. When the explosion is finally thwarted, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character emerges from a coma to inquire with the question, “Am I dead?”

You’ve got eight minutes to figure it out, again and again.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and profanity. Running time: 94 minutes. Distributor: Summit Entertainment.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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