Movie Review: Source Code

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Eight minutes. That’s how long Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to find the bomb and the bomber of a commuter train.

The catch is that Colter can go back for the last eight minutes over and over until he completes this assignment. But time is of the essence. This explosion is believed to be the first in a series of planned attacks. The longer Colter takes in solving the mystery bomber, the more lives will be at stake.

Directed by Duncan Jones (“Moon”), “Source Code” is a mashup of “Groundhog Day,” “Deja Vu,” “Inception,” “Speed” and “Unstoppable.”

Colter, an army helicopter pilot, finds himself waking up in the body of another man, sitting in a train heading for Chicago. To his bewilderment, a friendly passenger sitting across him, “Christina,” (Michelle Monaghan), keeps addressing him as “Sean.”

Colter discovers that he’s participating in an experimental government program called “Source Code.” Invented by a single-minded scientist, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), a soldier with a specific condition can transmogrify into another person and experience the last eight minutes of another’s life. In this case, Colter inhabits the body of a doomed teacher, Sean Fentress.

Transported back into reality and situated within a capsule, Colter has been communicating with a military commander, Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who monitors his progress. To his frustration, Colleen is tight-lipped about everything else other than the mission, although she turns more sympathetic to Colter’s plight as time passes.

With every eight minutes passed and back, Colter’s investigation deepens. He expects the routine incidents before they happen, notices the small details about the behaviors of his fellow passengers, and become more aware about his surroundings. Colter also realizes that he falls a little harder and harder for Christina each time. As Sean, he asks her if she could get on the Internet and find out about his soldier ‘”friend,” Colter Stevens. What he learns shocks him.

There is no way of getting around the repetitive scenes, but every time there’s more to discern. Halfway through it appears that the story is heading into one direction, but it shifts gear in a way that makes sense if you pay attention to a certain clue involving a couple passengers.

Gyllenhaal portrays Colter’s confusion, disorientation, determination and resignation honorably. What he attempts to do in the last eight minutes of his final return, whilst he has another choice to do something else, shows his decency. With Monaghan’s Christina, they’re very likeable and will make anyone wish they beat their fate. In reality, passenger Christina Warren is reported to have perished in the exploding train.

The philosophical questions are more intriguing than the pseudo-science behind the eight-minute window. The Source Code program is designed not to alter the past, but affect the future. But is that all there is to it? Do you believe in a parallel universe? Does alternate reality exist with you on a different path in life?

The penultimate scene on the train showing the facial expression of every passenger is comforting. Everything wraps up as wholly as it could. “Source Code” is a streamlined, suspenseful sci-fi thriller served with heart.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog ,The MovieMaven (

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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