Despite hearing many positive reviews for Source Code over the years, this was always a movie that seemed to escape my mind. So after finally getting to it and giving it a watch, I can now say that I understand the adoration for this movie. Source Code is a fantastic science fiction action thriller that handles its repetitive nature well to create a contemplative and thoughtful story. Of course with most sci-fi films, you have to be open to accept a certain level of unbelievability and Source Code is no exception. That being said, Jake Gyllenhaal is an absolute powerhouse as he stars as the lead of this film while Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michelle Monaghan (and a very random cameo from Russell Peters) act as suitable supporting characters.

[Please note this review contains spoilers; read at your own discretion]

With the whole deja vu component being the most prominent element in Source Code, most of the movie takes place repeatedly in the same setting – on the train. While this “die and start over” thematic is definitely an engaging one, it has to be done right or else it’ll lose the audience’s interest because it’s the same thing every time. In my opinion, Source Code does this quite well from start to finish, bringing something new to the table with each eight minute reiteration of the train ride before the explosion. Whether it was added humour or a new revelation in the case, each time we jumped back into the “simulation”, I felt the story growing more and more compelling.

I personally really love these kinds of films where there’s a serious problem that needs to be solved and we get to work through the perspective of the detective who is also trying to figure it out. The added benefit of Source Code is that there seems to be an unlimited number of attempts to go at it. As I was watching, I felt like I was Captain Colter Stevens (played by Gyllenhaal) myself, trying to solve the crime and crossing off options that he’s already tried. The entire time I was thinking, what should he try next? Who haven’t we targeted? How can we solve this? There’s a level of engagement and interaction in this movie that I personally found very enjoyable. And of course, when it’s finally solved, there’s that level of immense satisfaction.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens in Source Code

But what I loved so much about Source Code is that the movie is so much deeper and more complex than it appears. While at first it seems like a pretty straightforward and simple plot to follow (we’re using this Source Code program to identify the bomber to prevent a second attack), the hidden second story slowly gets revealed as the story progresses. It’s not just about figuring out the bomber, it’s about the unethical practice of barely keeping a dead soldier’s brain alive to use as a tool – without his consent. I was honestly in shock when it was first revealed that Captain Stevens was a soldier that died in battle and the true nature of the Source Code program came to light. It added so many new layers to this film that made it all the more interesting and gripping.

None of this would have been as great as it was without the amazing lead performance by Gyllenhaal and an appropriately sympathetic performance by Farmiga. Although the two only ever meet through virtual conversation, their exchanges were some of the best in the movie. Gyllenhaal brought a real temper to the character of Captain Stevens, but also highlighted him as a very respectable and virtuous human being. He managed to bring a real personality to the character despite all the craziness and it made me want to root for him. Meanwhile, Farmiga was able to play off that to perfectly create Captain Goodwin to be a compassionate and morally strong character despite the horrid orders she was given.

Now I have to spend some time talking about the ending because man, did it totally surprise me. As I mentioned earlier already, with science fiction films, you always have to be prepared to give a certain amount of leeway for their imaginative explanation of things. Did Source Code make any sense realistically? Absolutely not. With the ending explaining how the Source Code program actually creates alternate parallel universes each time they reentered the “simulation”, things just became even more wild. But honestly, I enjoyed the open possibilities and kind of cliff hanger ending the movie ends on. Although it certainly threw me off guard at first, thinking about it now, I liked how it made me reflect on the entire movie and the implications that this new finding means.

Of course, with an ending this bold, there’s going to be some finnicky problems with it. While at first it seems like a happy ending for Captain Stevens, there’s a couple of issues that I have with this so called new universe he ends up being in. First of all, what happens to Sean Fentress? Sure Captain Stevens takes over his body during the Source Code “simulation”, but now that it’s revealed he’s just created an alternate universe, what happens to Sean Fentress? Is he just…non-existent now and is just completely taken over by Captain Stevens? Not to mention, if the Source Code did create a real reality, then all those failed attempts to find the bomber means thousands, maybe millions, of people actually died in that attack. Not so happy anymore right?

Full of suspenseful writing, great plot building, and a wonderful cast, Source Code was truly a fantastic film experience that I’m happy to have finally been a part of. It has a totally appropriate runtime that makes the pacing perfect for its thrilling build up. The more I think about the movie, the more I’m impressed by it’s level of thoughtful creation. It’s definitely a complicated movie, but that’s kind of the beauty of science fiction films, they make us think about things that are beyond our reality. And for that, I always appreciate the imagination that goes into these films. When done right, it just really really works well. After enjoying this film so much and loving how layered it is, I’ve decided to give Source Code an 8.5/10. It’s got action, it’s got suspense, it’s got high tech programs, and it’s all tied up with this big and important ethical question at hand. For those of you that want to watch a movie that makes you think and reflect on what you just saw, I think you’ll really love this one.