Source Code (2011)

  • Source CodeDirector Duncan JonesMoon (2009) was deliciously complex and intense. Source Code might be even better.
  • Largely because the cast is outstanding. Jake Gyllenhaal (Captain Colton Stephens) is a multi-faceted actor with remarkable range, but this could be his best performance. He gives the film gravitas and charisma.
  • Insofar as both layer their characters well, making it seem the women are better developed than they actually are, Michelle Monaghan (Christina Warren) and Vera Farmiga (Colleen Goodwin) shine almost as brightly.
  • Yet, Source Code’s scene stealer is Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Rutledge), who makes his borderline corrupt politican feel human, an accomplishment that is all the more remarkable given the exposition-heavy dialogue with which writer Ben Ripley saddles him.
  • The cast is not Source Code’s only strength. Ripley and Jones have keen emotional acuity. Though their film is plot-based, they develop their characters well and thereby create empathy.
  • Plus, they build tension and time information-reveals perfectly.
  • From a technical perspective, Source Code is excellent. Jones channels his inner Alfred Hitchcock, building suspense through editing, camera angles and sound design.
  • Moreover, the writer and director skillfully differentiate each of the eight minute sequences aboard a doomed train. This is the science fiction version of Groundhog Day (1993), a fact that risks repetitiveness, all the more so because there is so little humor. Source Code maintains interest, however, if only because secondary characters behave differently based on Captain Stephens’ actions, something that ensures each scene’s events are unique.
  • Narratively, the film isn’t quite perfect, though, mostly because the resolution is underexplained. Why do Stephens’ final actions work the way they do? We cannot answer that question.
  • All the same, I recommend this film without reservation. It is quite exceptional.
  • Final Grade: A-

34 thoughts on “Source Code (2011)

    • I don’t remember hearing much either, but I have seen a few reviews around the blogaverse. All of them have been positive, so I finally gave it a watch. And I’m glad I did. This is superb.

      Not least because, as you say, the cast is fantastic.

    • Gyllenhaal is terrific in everything, but even better here. Only his turn in Brokeback rivals this one, I think.

      And I definitely suggest you see this one. Certainly seems like your sort of movie. 🙂

  1. I had a few problems with this one (I think the main one is that I didn’t enjoy Jeffrey Wright’s performance anywhere near as much as you!) but enjoyed it overall and I think you’ve made some good points above; it’s certainly a very well-constructed thriller. Of the two of his films to date I preferred Moon, as I liked the subtlety and the design that echoed older sci-fi films, but this was gripping at times.

    • What didn’t you like about Wright’s performance?

      And I would never disparage anyone for liking Moon more. I might, too, actually (the fact that I gave Source Code a higher grade is not necessarily indicative of my personal preference). Moon is a dynamite flick, too.

      • Ah…in all honesty it’s hard for me to say why! I saw it three years ago in the cinema, but when I read your review I remembered that I didn’t enjoy his performance.

        I noticed that Jones is working on the ‘Warcraft’ movie. Having never played I’m not sure whether I’ll like that or not. It’s possible his next film after that will be 2017 or 2018, which is a long wait!

      • I saw that, too, on IMDB. I don’t play either. But I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not a film adaptation can work (seems unlikely).

  2. Nyc review dude! No, but seriously nice review! You are another person giving Source Code a rave review and making me want to finally see it. Being a fan of Jake and all, it surprises me that I have made no effort to see this! I MUSTTTTTT!!!!

  3. For some reason I never warmed up to Jake Gyllenhaal, tho he was good in October Sky. He was good here tho but largely the film works because of Duncan’s direction. Vera Farmiga is also excellent, as always. Glad you mentioned Michelle Monaghan too as she seems quite underrated.

  4. I loved Moon but found this a distinct disappointment. There were some good ideas, but the emotional arc didn’t really work when you thought about it too much (and this is the kind of film that encourages you to do just that) and the motivations/identity of the terrorist was generic and uninteresting. Not a terrible film, but not something I’m keen to watch again. Good review, even if I disagree 🙂

  5. I’m a sucker for time travel in general so it’s no surprise I really enjoyed this one. I haven’t seen it in a while but I do seem to remember I had a problem with the ending (perhaps similar to your thoughts about it not working logically).

  6. I actually never saw this and I have been meaning to! You want to know why I haven’t at my last job we used to have to code advertisement links and I used to create “source codes.” I swear that alone made me not want to see it ! LOL. I am also a Gyllenhaal fan so I am mad at myself for not having seen this yet. Good review as always.

  7. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this one, but I remember being pleased and surprised by how well done it was. Makes me want to sit down for another view! Glad you seem to have enjoyed it as well. 🙂

  8. WELL, I’ve not see Moon nor Source Code or know anything about Duncan Moon. Thanks for the head’s up. I shall queue it to the top on Netflix. Great! I need a good thriller. Excellent review, Josh 🙂

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