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'Source Code' a matter of life and death

"Source Code" is a techno-thriller film directed by British director Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, right, Michelle Monaghan, left, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright. It was released April 1, 2011, by Vendome Pictures and Summit Entertainment. Photo Credit: Jonathan Wenk

The tie-up-the-loose-ends coda of this science-fiction thriller is preposterous even by the super-science standards of the genre -- it makes "The Matrix" seem like Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason." But aside from a couple of niggling, leftover questions, none of that matters -- because within this movie's make-believe parameters we've a thoroughly original, imaginative and fast-flying tale in which the "Groundhog Day" aspects are secondary to a story of service, honor and dedication.

Army Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) of the 117th Airborne finds himself inexplicably in what may be a space capsule. From this womb with a view, he meets Air Force Capt. Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), a face on a video screen. She grudgingly gives him bits of information, as much as he can handle, about this Project Source Code, as does brusque head scientist Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright).

The upshot is, they're transporting his persona, "Quantum Leap"-like, into the body of a history teacher on a doomed Chicago commuter train. A bomb destroyed it a couple hours ago, and there's no changing the past. But if Stevens can find the bomb and ID the bomber, it'll help authorities stop the man before he makes good on his promise to follow up with a dirty bomb that could kill millions. Stevens has eight minutes each time. He gets blown up a lot.

Director Duncan Jones ("Moon") seem unsure whether Stevens is inside a computer simulation -- love interest Christina (Michelle Monaghan) at one point starts breaking up like a bad Internet transmission -- or whether he's being sent to alternate realities. A third possibility appears at the end. Yet exemplary performances by Gyllenhaal and Farmiga as duty-bound career officers and Wright as a good man with unseemly ambition elevate what could have been a techy sci-fi yarn into a drama about the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Back story: Gyllenhaal loved making it weirder

In "Source Code," Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Capt. Colter Stevens, explores his emotions while trapped in a mysterious pod. The soldier is uncertain how he got there but follows instructions from a military communications officer (Vera Farmiga) over a video screen.

Gyllenhaal found the pod set oddly stimulating.

"A lot of the time I was acting with myself," he recalls. "I didn't see Vera on the screen. So I was literally doing the kind of one-man show that a kid would do when they pick up an object and go, 'Oh, hi, Mr. Cup, how are you?' "

Though it could have been mundane shooting the repetitive train sequences, Gyllenhaal found it fascinating. Each sequence varies from the previous one because his character picks up knowledge from earlier events and acts upon them.

" Duncan would come up to me and say, 'Make it weirder,' which in my case meant do something totally different and explore how far and outlandish it can go, which is what I love," recalls Gyllenhaal.

The actor says Jones reminded him of Ang Lee, who directed him in the Academy Award-nominated "Brokeback Mountain." "They're both kind of quiet and they both allow their actors to do what they are going to do," he says.

-- Entertainment News Wire

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