Source Code manages to nail that sweet spot that all science fiction films aim for, where the science is utterly fascinating and would control the focus of the entire film were it not for the compelling characters. To put it bluntly, you come for the source code - the program that allows the user to reenact the last eight minutes of someone's life - but you'll stay for Captain Colter Stevens and his intense dedication to an unachievable goal.
Much to my delight, Source Code is "hard" science fiction. There are no aliens or superheroes or robots so advanced that they're distinguishable from humans. It does not take place in the distant future, nor even the near future. It takes place right now, in our world, albeit with the advanced and fictitious source code technology. I hesitate to use the term "suspension of disbelief" because it comes with the idea that what you're experience is unbelievable. While the source code technology is far beyond anything we are and possibly ever will be capable of it, it's far from unbelievable.
And even if the idea were overwhelmingly far-fetched, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the charismatic performance given by star Jake Gyllenhaal could still carry the film. Stevens is in a tough spot - he wants to serve his country, it's something he signed up for and something he's already been doing for quite some time. And yet he doesn't know where he is, what he's doing, or how's he doing it. And yet, despite all the questions he fires out between his eight minute sessions, he still complies, because he's a soldier and, more importantly, a human being.
Gyllenhaal has the acting chops and presence to be a leading man, but films like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time call his ability into question. It's good to see him back in form and possibly better than ever. Captain Colter Stevens is a hero others should look up to. He lives to serve, not just his country, but his fellow countrymen.
Even if, for whatever reason, you find yourself unable to buy into Source Code's science, you can still buy into Stevens and his mission and root for the character until you're blue in the face. That's the real beauty of Source Code. It works both ways, independently, and yet still manages to blend them together into a masterful combination.
There are gripes about the ending. Some call it a twist, some call it inevitable, but the ending does put forth a certain idea that's striking some people the wrong way. I was not one of those people. It shows things in a different light, but not an entirely unexpected one. If you've bought the film's science up until that point, you will happily buy the ending as well. The ambiguous nature of the source code technology allowed for many directions and the direction they chose to go just might be perfect. Source Code is one of those films that might show cracks under intense scrutiny, but that's a definite "might," and if you really put that much effort into scrutinizing it, you might not be a fan of science fiction in the first place.
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