Today I watched Duncan Jones’ Source Code (2011)
The time travel in source code is certainly not conventional for film; in it one does not travel back and forth along one timeline, the traveler is instead transposed to an alternate timeline via the mental echoes of the lives therein. It takes a very special candidate to undergo this trip though and Army pilot Capt. Colter Stevens may be the only one. The mysterious organization that controls time travel now needs him to go back to a train bombing in Chicago as it is only the preliminary attack that will be followed by a much larger dirty bomb in the center of Chicago. He is sent back into the mind of Sean Fentress, a history teacher on the train, and he has only 8 minutes per jump to identify the bomber so that his colleagues in his future can stop him.
Stevens has to keep going through the 8 minute loop and soon begins to question whether or not he can change the future, and this idea really propels the film’s heady time concepts into a proper narrative. Though to do so the film requires an intense amount of mystery which means that the people in charge of Stevens’ operation are always keeping him in the dark. I am really not sure how effective it would really be to keep him so far in the dark about pretty much everything, it seems a little contrived.
It leans into the dystopian with of how little Stevens is made aware of and maybe that is the point, we don’t really need to set films in some unknown future to be dystopian, we live in a cyberpunk dystopia already. Because the film focuses on the character of Stevens and because he is quite interesting, this all works despite the burden of contrived mystery. I really didn’t think about much beyond him while watching and the logical holes I had with the story were kept at bay by it’s near total focus on character. Jake Gyllenhaal does a great job bringing Stevens to life here, his obvious passion and energy are the fuel which drives much of this film. Despite the, at times unwieldy, levels of mystery, Gyllenhaal makes us know Stevens immediately and carries us through his baffling and absurd experience in a serious and compelling manner. 4/5