If that sounds more than a little bit like the Time Travel Television show Quantum Leap, then trust me, you're not alone. 2011's Source Code couldn't scream Quantum Leap any louder if it featured a cameo from Scott Bakula or something.
By the way, Colter Stevens' unpictured father is voiced by none other than Scott Bakula!
The big difference here is that Colter finds that he's actually dealing with a pocket reality, separate from the standard continuum and repeating events as only he can observe and control them, almost like something out of Donnie Darko or something. In fact, the similarities on that front are so strong that they're practically begging for Darko himself, Jake Gyllenhaal, to be cast as Colter Stevens. Oh, by the way, Colter Stevens is played by Jake Gyllenhaal!
Now that's good casting.
All of this is true, but Source Code, while far from a perfect film, is also not the derivative joke that some might want to make it out to be. Sure the influences on Ben Ripley's screenplay are pretty clear, however, these elements amount to mere inspirations in an overall larger, more complex and interesting script... far from just a rip off. Of course, this is, at least partially, a great credit to Moon director Duncan Jones... also known as ZOWIE BOWIE!!!
Yes, yes, folks, it's just a hair's breadth shy of IMPOSSIBLE to be unoriginal when you're the son of David Bowie (nee Jones), am I right? Let me answer that for you. Yes. Yes, I am.
Man... I wish I was Zowie Bowie!
Anyway, so the story goes a little something like this... The Coltergeist wakes up on a Commuter Train just outside of Chicago, where he's greeted by a beautiful female friend named Christina (Michelle Monaghan) who keeps calling him Sean... which is who he's lept into, of course. He acts like a total weirdo for a few minutes, trying to get his bearings and figure out why he's not still piloting a chopper in Afghanistan, when suddenly the train explodes in a horrible, carnage-ridden mess, leaving everybody on the train as dead as disco.
Except Colter who wakes up in an experimental capsule, where he's briefed by Air Force Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) on the "Source Code" project that he is now an integral part of. As created and commanded by smarmy Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), Source Code basically does exactly what that fabled Quantum Leap Accelerator used to do on TV 20 years ago, but ONLY for eight minutes at a time. Rutledge also assures Stevens (and the audience) that it's impossible to change the future or prevent this tragedy from taking place because Stevens is only interacting in this 8 minute pocket dimension, no more, no less. His mission is to find out who the Mad Bomber is as soon as super-humanly possible in order to prevent a much dirtier attack from taking place later that day.
So Colter Stevens goes back and faces the same series of events over and over and over, each time learning more, while his fellow passengers are clueless to any of these proceedings.
At times Source Code resembles Groundhog Day in its progressive repetition and re-learning of the main character (sometimes to comic effect, but with a much more frightening outcome). Colter knows every conversation, every event, every coffee spill, every inch of the train, moment-by-moment as he leaps and re-leaps into Sean.
Naturally, he learns more and more, not only about the mission, but about himself, Christina, Goodwin... and, he hopes, the midnight bomber what bombs at midnight, man. I'd be wanting to know more about David Bowie, though, because I am SO his bitch.
But I digress.
Source Code for all its satisfying progress, is not at all without its plot holes, though these are a lot less than many of the confused audience members from the blogosphere would have you believe. Ripley and Jones tend to expect a lot of the viewers' intelligence in certain areas, leaving things only vaguely explained, while spending great amounts of time on less-than-vital plot points (that are no less worth seeing). At times Source Code feels quite predictable as piece by piece the puzzle starts to formulate and become a whole picture. However, at some point during the 93 minute Runtime, I got the impression that the film was less going down a predictable path than it was doing things that I was hoping it would do. In this respect, Source Code is not only exciting, mysterious and action packed, but manages to feel really good as the story is told. The quality acting and directing push this film over the stall wall from not-so-bad into really-worth-watching territory.
Much has been made online about the film's final act and its relative continuity, sense and necessity. In truth, this last sequence of scenes can be confusing and is most assuredly open to interpretation, but it's also not at all the experiment in obscurity that many have claimed that it is. The film could very well have survived without it, but wouldn't have felt quite as complete, nor would the film have been quite as talked about had the ending been excised.
Does the finale make or break the picture? Well, I'm no more going to spoil the ending here than I would post nude, 3-D pictures of my aunt. Make up your own mind about the ending. The bottom line is that Source Code is a very good science fiction, fantasy, time travel action thriller with an excellent cast, an interesting (if occasionally familiar) story and, yes, a very good and intelligent ending that helps make the film worth Three and One Half Stars out of Five! On Groundhog Day or any other day worth repeating, I'd give this one the old thumbs up, and not just because it was directed by Ziggy Stardust's kid! Duncan Jones is his own man, who is making his own quality art that is, so far, worth reliving a few times over. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to crank Diamond Dogs up to 11 and watch Moon again. I'll leap into each one of you in the Next Reel!
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