Blu-Ray Review: You Will Fall For Thrilling ‘Source Code’

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CHICAGO – Critics often fall back on cliched phrases about rollercoaster rides or edge-of-your-seat entertainment and then you’re disappointed when you head to the theatre or rent their recommendation and nearly fall asleep. “Source Code” is one of the few honestly-satisfying thrill rides that deserves that title. It’s one of the most entertaining films of the year and it’s going to garner an even-larger following with a strong Blu-ray and DVD release this week from Summit Entertainment. Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

I admired Duncan Jones’ breakthrough sci-fi cult hit “Moon” but worried, like most, about an inevitable sophomore slump, especially when it was announced that he wasn’t doing his passion project “Mute” next but was moving on to someone else’s script with “Source Code.” Director-for-hire gigs rarely turn out well. Few have turned out as well as this one. “Source Code” may first feel like a more traditional thriller but it’s clearly cut from the same cloth as “Moon” in that it takes the impossible and makes it human, even spiritual. Like the best sci-fi, “Source Code” is both entertaining and thought-provoking. It’s a great slice of entertainment that you’ll want to watch again and again, dissecting it with the help of an excellent Blu-ray release from Summit.

Source Code
Source Code
Photo credit: Summit Pictures

With inspirations as wide-ranging as “Groundhog Day,” “Rashomon,” “24,” Alfred Hitchcock, and “The Twilight Zone,” “Source Code” plays to this critic like an old-fashioned thriller with a modern twist. It features the timeless Hitchcock set-up of a man caught in a situation he didn’t ask for and doesn’t quite understand. And the film goes from purely entertaining to something more in its final act when writer Ben Ripley and director Duncan Jones transcend mere science fiction for a spiritual commentary on what matters in life and maybe even in death.

Source Code was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 26th, 2011
Source Code was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 26th, 2011
Photo credit: Summit Home Video

Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train bound for Chicago on what seems like an average morning commute. He sees a beautiful woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan) seated across from him. Christina speaks to Colter like she knows him but he does not recognize her and matters are complicated much further when she called him Sean. He opens his wallet to find another man’s face on his driver’s license, one that matches the one he first sees in his window and then in the bathroom mirror. As Colter/Sean is trying to determine just what kind of dream or incredibly-realistic simulation he’s partaking in, the train explodes.

Colter wakes up strapped into a capsule and his memories are jogged via a series of exercises administered by Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She eventually explains to him, along with the help of a superior named Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), that he is a part of an amazing new program called Source Code. You know how a light bulb retains a bit of incandescence after its turned off? Apparently, so does the human brain. Using that, the government has created an amazing program in which one man can literally jump into the last eight minutes of a life. This morning, a bomb was detonated on a Chicago-bound train. This afternoon, a dirty bomb will go off in the city itself if Colter can’t find the bomber using Source Code. The specifics of Colter’s situation along with the practical and spiritual implications of the program will be revealed as the movie progresses and, of course, it’s a pretty good thriller at the same time.

There are so many things that Jones and his team do right with “Source Code” that it’s nearly hard to catalog them all. I simply don’t have time to watch movies repeatedly but I’ve seen “Source Code” three times now and not only does it hold up but I actually want to see it again. It’s absolutely going to be one of my favorite movies from 2011.

Why does it work so well? Not only do Gyllenhaal, Monaghan, Wright, and Farmiga take parts that seem relatively easy and do great genre work within them but every element of the script works. I love how much the film leaves open to interpretation (it took until the second viewing to realize that the whole thing could easily be read as one giant spiritual parable about reincarnation) and how little it underlines the emotions around “what really matters.” One viewer could read the film as a deep, philosophical piece, another will just enjoy the ride. Like only the best science fiction, it works either way.

And it will work again and again (despite my misgivings about the multiple endings of the film…it should have cut after the first, frozen-framed one and was truly hoping that the commentary would reveal that Jones agreed but that is not the case even though Ripley does admit that where I would have cut the film is “an ending”) with this strong Blu-ray release. The video and audio are good-not-great. Summit’s transfers seem a bit dull to this viewer, as if they haven’t been remastered quite enough, but it’s a minor complaint. As for special features, there’s a fantastic commentary with Jones, Gyllenhaal, and writer Ben Ripley along with “Access: Source Code,” a picture-in-picture feature that allows interviews and even expert opinion on time travel into the film.

“Source Code” stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright. It was written by Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones. It is rated PG-13 and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 26th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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