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April 8, 2011 > Movie Review: Source Code

Movie Review: Source Code

By Steve Worley

In computer science, source code is text written by programmers to facilitate their work. Programmers define the actions to be performed by a computer via directions given through the source code, which is automatically translated to binary code that a computer can read.

"Source Code" the movie, directed by Duncan Jones, makes an attempt to keep the viewer guessing till the end. Jake Gyllenhaal of "Brokeback Mountain" fame stars as Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot recruited for a top-secret project using experimental technology.

At the beginning of the film, Captain Stevens awakens on a fast-moving passenger train with no memory of how he got there. Seated across from him is an unfamiliar woman named Christina, played by Michelle Monaghan. Christina knows Captain Stevens, but Captain Steven has no idea who she is, or what she is talking about. Seeking refuge in the bathroom, Stevens sees another man's reflection in the mirror; his identification says that he is Sean Fentress, a schoolteacher. At that instant, a massive explosion obliterates the train and everyone aboard, including Christina and Fentress/Stevens.

The next scene cuts to a post-apocalyptic high-tech isolation capsule containing Colter Stevens and a viewer screen containing the image of a uniformed woman named Goodwin, played by Vera Farmiga. Goodwin is demanding that Colter identify the bomber, but he is confused and has lost all recollection. Goodwin; her superior explains that Colter is on a high-priority mission to identify a bomber who destroyed a commuter train just scant hours earlier. The unknown bomber also plans to kill hundreds of thousands more with a dirty bomb in Chicago. A clandestine government program, codenamed Source Code, allows Captain Stevens to exist for eight minutes as Sean Fentress in a parallel past reality of the doomed train, in order to solve the puzzle.

Each return to the train gives Colter the same eight minutes to discover the bomber's identity. Each trip provides more information, but it takes a life-threatening toll on his mind and body and he has about fifty people from which to root out the terrorist. The more Colter uncovers, the more determined he becomes to prevent the deadly blast from occurring in the first place, no matter what the cost... unless time runs out first.

From the above premise the viewer would not be blamed for thinking that "Source Code'" may be related in some way to the story-line of 1995's "12 Monkeys," 2010's "Inception," or a couple of other films dealing with parallel worlds / alternate realities. While "Inception" takes the viewer through a series of dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams, "Source Code" is closer to the time travel reality of "12 Monkeys" with a plot that tries to keep you guessing until the end.

"Source Code" is one of those movies that will leave you wondering about the nature of reality itself, without a religious experience and techno babble. A few who are familiar with the sci-fi time travel / parallel universe genre may be able to predict the ending of the movie. Most will not.

Rated PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images, and for language
Runtime: 93 min

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