Without giving too much away, Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a helicopter pilot Captain in Afghanistan who awakens to find himself on a commuter train with a beautiful lady in the seat facing him. She keeps calling him Sean, which isn't his name, and acts like she knows him. As the film moves along, down the track, the good Captain learns that he's part of a new program called "Source Code", in which his job is to go back in eight minute periods to learn as much as he can to identify who the terrorist is that bombed the train. The film reminded me of Groundhog Day, as it was amusing to see the same events happen time and again, with Captain Stevens making slight variations within his eight minute trips. To reveal much more is to ruin the beautiful experience of discovery for yourself. It truly is a worthwhile film that I love.
The themes covered include time travel, destiny / fate, and alternative realities (in one dialogue, the characters discuss the possibility of creating separate realities each time a person makes a major life decision). There is an overall spiritual subtext to the film, though its not mentioned because this is a sci-fi(ish) film with a love story angle. The cinematography is stunning, as we're treated to beautiful aerial shots of Chicago and surrounding areas. The commuter trains are exactly like the CalTrain that I rode on the peninsula during my vacation to San Francisco last October/November. I sat in the upper level, which has an open center so you can see the people on the lower level. These open holes in the middle of the train works well with some situations presented in the film.
Jake Gyllenhaal is proving to be an amazing actor who chooses his film roles quite well. He is probably one of the best actors of our generation. In one scene, when he learns a painful truth, you can see on his face that he doesn't believe what he's hearing. Its an amazing moment of emoting, where facial expressions can communicate exactly what his character is feeling in that moment. That is a sign of true talent right there.
Vera Farminga (of Up in the Air) plays Captain Colleen Goodwin, an Air Force officer who gives directions to Captain Stevens before he goes back to the train to pick up more information and then elicits from him what he has learned once he returns from the exploding train. Jeffrey Wright (who played Colin Powell in Oliver Stone's W.) plays the creator of Source Code, Dr. Rutledge. If this all sounds confusing, the viewer gets a debriefing, along with Captain Stevens. Realists who see this film may have a problem suspending disbelief, which is required to enjoy such a film, but if you're willing to relax when the opening credits start showing, its a very compelling story. There is a time sensitivity for Captain Stevens to find out who the terrorist is because they have information that he's planning to plant a dirty bomb in downtown Chicago. Gosh, I really hope we are not giving real terrorist ideas! I love train travel, but they are vulnerable because there are no security checks. I'm glad there aren't any security checks to go through, but one person could ruin it all if something happened like it does in the movie.
Despite its sci-fi angle, there's still plenty of time to throw in a love interest, played by Michelle Monaghan. During Captain Stevens' last trip on the train, he decides to do everything right (like Bill Murray finally does in Groundhog Day) and this is where the real sweetness of the film hits. If you knew you were going to die within a few minutes, what would you do? Stevens is tired of unruly passengers, indifferent people, and bad attitudes in general, so he tries to make a difference, to make the last minutes of the train passengers lives count for something. Its the take home message of the film: live in the now because all we have is now. Very Buddhist / New Age theme.
I love that the film featured the Millennium Gate in Chicago (that strange looking, silver-mirror, bean shape space oddity that is in Millennium Park--I was there in the summer of 2007!). Like the other two films I saw recently, I walked out of the theater feeling inspired and happy. Yes, three for three in the awesome movies being released by Hollywood this year. I have no idea what's coming next that I want to see. All the previews were of comic-book adaptations, which bores me. Action films actually put me to sleep, if you can believe it. I truly need to have the film engage my mind to be interested in the movie, otherwise I'm liable to fall asleep.
Hopefully, filmgoers will support this film. The more money these kinds of movies make, the more Hollywood will greenlight similar films that play with reality and engage our minds and challenge our preceptions. Do we really need any more comic book heroes on the big screen? I plan to see Captain America this summer, but probably not the Green Lantern unless the film reviews are across the board raving. There are two films that I want to see but I don't know when they will be released: The Conspirator (about the Lincoln assassination) and a movie about the early Beat Generation revolving around the murder of a gay Scout leader in which writer Jack Kerouac was considered an accessory for disposing the murder weapon. If nothing good is coming out in the next couple months, I'll probably see about asking the Russian lady to see The Adjustment Bureau with me. I'd love to hear her thoughts on the whole destiny versus free will debate. But with the fourth season of Mad Men and Sarah Palin's Alaska out on DVD now, I can take a break from movie outings for awhile and relax at home. It'll probably be a long while before films are released that can match the three-fer punch of The Adjustment Bureau, Limitless, and Source Code.