It is pretty easy to knock Source Code for its unrealistic elements, because it is full of them, but you have to be a mirthless asshole to do that. When a genre has the word "fiction" in it, beliefs are meant to be suspended. With all of its oddball elements and non-explanations, the most unbelievable aspect is Jake Gyllenhaal's character experiencing feelings for the ho-humness of Michelle Monaghan's character. I guess guys transported into someone else's body for eight minutes will be guys.
Moon director Duncan Jones certainly left contained simplicity behind when he chose Ben Ripley's screenplay as his next project. Source Code is packed with ideas and events from start to finish. I won’t say that every idea and event bears fruit, but there are balance and suspense, two things missing from the majority of current high-profile releases. It also contains a discouragingly campy Jeffrey Wright performance, but you take the bad with the good.
The plot -- "Man has eight minutes to stop train from exploding or some shit" -- was the only thing jammed down people's throats before the film hit theaters, in order to keep it cloaked in mystery. I'm all for that where films with huge surprises are concerned. After watching, I wish they'd advertised this movie as more of a character piece over a sci-fi action thriller, as Jake Gyllenhaal stands out amongst a sea of thin, necessarily expository caricatures. Films that take place within a constantly changing circuit of time allow actors certain liberties where questionable acting is concerned. Sure, it does.
The film opens with this very plot notion, getting viewers right into the action. We know more than helicopter pilot Cpt. Colter Stevens knows at this point. He becomes pseudo-sentient as "Sean," in the middle of a casual train ride with Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). This is a train ride that Sean takes daily, and then things explode.
Colter wakes up inside of a pod, communicating with Cpt. Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), the creator of the Source Code. Luckily, the mumbo-jumbo explanations about how someone's essence can be transported into another person's body are limited. This is all you should know before watching. Just limit your critical focus on the Stevens character, as he anchors the film emotionally and intelligently.
If you so choose to spit upon my advice, and anticipate Source Code as a terrorist-and-time-travel romp, there are disappointments to be met. While the film pays off with its theories that are worth thinking about post-viewing, these theories also manage to dampen the outside world threat. Stevens alienates himself on the train trying to figure things out, so no other characters besides Warren seem to matter. Stevens gets the majority of the plot movement, so the two million Chicago citizens in danger of dying seem cinematically expendable.
This all sounds like I'm defending Source Code from something, which speaks more about me than the film, perhaps. I like loopy time-benders, especially when they're in talented hands. It's possible I liked it so much because it's a concept that any male child with a train set has undoubtedly put into practice. Humans are programmed to respond to slight changes in repetition. Thus, a lack of trash talk from me. Don't get used to it.
Source Code had to go all nerdy and non-conformist with its central special feature, where you get to "Access Source Code" by waiting for facts, sound bites, and interviews to pop up while you re-watch the movie. This is my least favorite presentation of information. I like things decompartmentalized. The more interesting sections come from a theoretical physicist and a series of animations depicting multi-world universes and string theory, so I assume these are easier for other people to swallow if they're interrupted by random facts about Chicago and the cast talking about the film. Also, books about time travel are recommended throughout. Once the film really gets going, the pop-ups are almost endless. I like what I saw, I just hated the way I saw it.
Beyond this, there's a commentary. Another film viewing? Dammit, it's not like I'm Colter Stevens and I can just pop back in time and watch it in a different way. Jake Gyllenhaal, Duncan Jones, and Ben Ripley discuss most aspects of the film in an amusing and spirited way, bringing their own interpretations of character and plot. Sounds generic but it isn't. Three interesting guys. One interesting movie. Fandom will be the deciding factor between owning this Blu-ray or getting the one viewing in. Well, three, if you want any insight.