Source Code (2011)

source code

“What would you do if you knew you only had one minute to live?”

The Scoop: 2011 PG-13, directed by Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga

Tagline: Make every second count

Summary Capsule: Soldier in an unorthodox experiment goes back in time to prevent a terrorist attack in the future

Justin’s rating: ERROR IN LINE 4

Justin’s review: A man wakes up, only to find that he’s in someone else’s body on a train that’s destined to be blown up.  As Source Code opens, that’s all we — and the main character — know, and it’s immediately confusing as it is intriguing.  What’s going on here?  Time travel?  A near-death experience?  An elaborate training simulation?

Source Code isn’t a huge, big-budget blockbuster, but a smaller, more thoughtful romp through interesting questions and precarious situations.  I expected as much from Moon’s Doug Jones, who returns to direct another scifi thriller that isn’t, on the surface, what you’d expect.

In a way, Source Code is two movies and two mysteries that happen to take place in the same location.  The first is the issue of a terrorist bombing on a Chicago commuter train.  Who did it, where’s the bomb, and how can an even bigger attack coming soon be thwarted?  Nothing overtly amazing, but it’s enough to hold one’s interest.

The bigger and better mystery is that of how Sam is reliving the last eight minutes leading up to the bombing over and over again.  He’s majorly disoriented as military figures bark at him to accomplish his mission, giving me flashbacks to a similar setup in 12 Monkeys.  What’s happening, exactly?  Does he merely have the power to observe or to change?  What will happen if he does something different during the next try?

I’m not interested in spoiling either of these mysteries, but just to say that they’re ultimately worthwhile to follow to a solid conclusion.  Source Code is  another entry in the scifi subgenre of time looping, where one “aware” person continuously goes through a repeated segment of time looking to accomplish a task — or to make it simply stop.  Yes, it’s territory covered by 12:01, Groundhog Day, Star Trek and many, many others, but I always love these stories because there’s so much room for creativity in the storytelling.  What would you do if you gradually learned everything that was going to happen and could anticipate everyone’s moves?  You’d become, for that segment of time, some sort of super-powered juggernaut.

I’m happy to say that Source Code is probably one of those few movies I’d easily recommend to just about anyone if I was asked for a good recommendation and didn’t have to worry about catering to specific personalities.  There’s a little something for everyone here, and while it doesn’t push the envelope as far as it should’ve to really hit home, it’s satisfying enough to not quibble about “what ifs.”


  • Beleaguered Castle, the company that runs the Source Code project, takes its name from a variation on the game of solitaire.
  • None of the sessions in the Source Code actually last 8 minutes of screentime. The third session is the longest, taking 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
  • Scott Bakula as voice of Colter’s father. Bakula starts off his phone conversation by saying “Oh Boy”. That was his trademark line from Quantum Leap, which has a similar plot to this film.

Groovy Quotes

Colter Stevens: What would you do if you knew you only had one minute to live?
Christina Warren: I’d make those seconds count.
Colter Stevens: I’d kiss you again.
Christina Warren: Again?

Dr. Rutledge: This is not time travel. This is time re-assignment.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Timecop
  • Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
  • 12:01


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