GROUNDHOG DAY with a Code
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle
Monaghan, Vera Farmiga,
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 93 minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Director: Duncan Jones
Executive Producer: Jeff Brody, Fabrice Gianfermi,
Producer: Mark Gordon, Phillipe
Rousselet, Jordan Wynn
Writer: Ben Ripley
Address Comments To:Rob Friedman, CEO, Summit Entertainment
1630 Stewart Street, Suite 120
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 309-8400; Fax: (310) 828-4132
Set in Chicago, the movie opens nicely. For those who consider Chicago to be one of America’s finest cities, the opening aerial shots are a real treat. An ominous music score also helps set the movie’s occasionally dizzying, vertiginous atmosphere.
As a commuter train winds its way from the outskirts toward Chicago, Army Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a pilot deployed to Iraq, inexplicably wakes up to find himself sitting in one of the train’s cars across from Christina (Michelle Monaghan), a beautiful and lively young woman. The last thing Colter remembers is being on a mission, but Christina apparently knows him and has been engaging him in conversation. To make the situation even more disconcerting, when Colter goes to the train’s restroom, he sees a totally different image of himself in the mirror. As he struggles to understand what’s happening, the train is suddenly engulfed in flames and completely destroyed in a horrific explosion killing everyone onboard. . . and all this takes place in just the first 10 minutes.
When Colter regains consciousness after the attack, he finds himself in a completely different setting, with an Air Force officer (Vera Farmiga) trying to communicate with him through a small video monitor. Colter soon learns he’s part of an experimental project allowing a military team of scientists to place him virtually in the same location, namely the doomed train, over and over again in order to complete his assigned mission.
Basically, Colter must pursue any available clues through each repeated trip to find out where the bomb was placed and, from there, determine who placed it. Hopefully, his investigation will prevent the culprit, or culprits, from successfully executing their main plan, which is a much more onerous one. Upping the stakes is that Army Intelligence has discovered the terrorists plan to detonate a dirty bomb in the heart of Chicago, and time is running out.
There are a lot of loose ends in SOURCE CODE. Captain Stevens, and the audience alike, have a million questions to ask, but there’s only enough time to answer just a few. He must keep digging up clues as fast as he can to solve the mystery and catch the terrorists. As he goes back to the same scene, he grows a little more attached to the lovely Christina, while also somehow trying to find a moment to communicate with his father, with whom he has some very strong pending emotional issues to resolve.
As a typical mind bender, this science fiction thriller SOURCE CODE is both entertaining, and stimulating, especially, perhaps for sci-fi aficionados. As lovers of this genre would probably attest, one can go in a couple of directions to have fun with this genre. The choice for viewers here is to: 1) not look too deeply behind the curtain and enjoy the ride; or, 2) try to analyze every scientific premise and become bothered by the inevitable, obvious discrepancies that crop up.
The cast in SOURCE CODE does a good job. Michelle Monaghan as the innocent Christina is endearing and full of life. Vera Farmiga, who gave a very credible performance against George Clooney in the recent movie UP IN THE AIR, does a good job here as well portraying the mission driven, yet compassionate mission specialist, Goodwin.
The direction itself is not quite able to create the tension this type of script potentially could have provided. Also, the set design is hokey, at times resembling the set in a stage play rather than a design that seems realistic.
Most welcome, however, is that the filmmakers keep the obscene language down to almost negligible levels. In addition, although SOURCE CODE has a humanist worldview, it clearly defines good from evil. On the other hand, it may be hard for viewers to avoid suspecting the movie tries to capitalize on a host of other recent productions, such as AVATAR and INCEPTION, not to mention GROUNDHOG DAY. So, writer Ben Ripley does not quite get an A for innovation here.
Worse than that, however, the movie has a strong politically correct element. [SPOILER ALERT] The terrorist villains turns out to be an All American white Southerner. Also, some subtle political correctness infects the movie in some areas. Besides being obnoxious, this also has the unintended effect of reducing SOURCE CODE’s credibility, while creating the perception that the story’s implausible moments may have been even greater than its questionable humanist science.
Finally, the movie’s underlying theme is the swapping from universe to universe. In the end, it gives the perception that, through science, humans can defeat death.
All in all, therefore, despite some heroic moments where the protagonist is defending innocent people, MOVIEGUIDE® cannot recommend SOURCE CODE.
SOURCE CODE is fairly well made and moderately gripping. However, the science is questionable, and the action suffers from strong political correctness. For instance, the terrorist leader turns out to be an All-American white Southerner type with a nutty motivation instead of the usual terrorist stereotype. SOURCE CODE has a light humanist worldview, but it clearly defines good from evil and has very little lewd content. It has multiple scenes of intense action violence, however. Overall, SOURCE CODE emphasizes humanist science as the solution. That and the politically correct elements make SOURCE CODE unacceptable for media-wise viewers.