Making the Grades
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) isn’t quite himself this morning. He awakens on a commuter train headed to Chicago, but he is in someone else’s body—someone named Sean. The beautiful brunette (Michelle Monaghan) sitting across from him looks confused, especially when he begins speaking as if he is someone completely different. Wondering what is happening, Cpt. Stevens’ only conclusion is he must be within a sophisticated military simulation. Whatever it is ends abruptly eight minutes later when a bomb violently explodes and sends himself and all other passengers on board to their death.
But Stevens isn’t dead. He awakens in a capsule full of wires and a video screen where he communicates with Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), a military officer who sits at a desk and interrogates the captive man, asking him questions about his "dream." She explains that he is part of project "Source Code," an experiment that allows scientists to replay the last eight minutes of someone’s life by analyzing latent memories within their brain. Stevens’ neurological compatibility makes him a choice participant, and allows the military to have him enter into the deceased Sean’s brain to try and discover who the bomber is. This procedure is especially important because the attack was only the first blast of the day. The next one planned is even bigger, and is supposed to happen in downtown Chicago.
When the visit doesn’t produce the necessary information, Cpt. Stevens is sent back as Sean’s and told to try again. As the eight-minute scenario is repeated over and over, Cpt. Stevens begins to piece together the terrorist puzzle. At the same time, he is anxious about his own state of existence. How did he get involved in this experiment? Where is this capsule in which he is encased? Tired and finding it more and more difficult to cope with each replay and its explosive ending, Stevens struggles to discover his own identity as much as the bomber’s.
Violence will be the greatest content concern for viewers. The repeated bombing of the train includes some slow motion effects of people being incinerated. Other scenes show blood from gunshot wounds, fisticuffs, and traumatic incidents, although the images don’t reach the point of explicit or gratuitous. We also see a disembodied human torso and head with a partial brain exposure in a medical environment. Language is infrequent (a pleasant surprise in this genre), however there still is a single use of a sexual expletive. You’ll also hear a couple of brief sexual remarks. From a religious perspective, this movie may or may not meet your expectations with its exploration of parallel universes and the nature of physical death.
Best described as Groundhog Day meets The Matrix, this film offers a unique premise and easily holds your attention for its relatively short 93 minute running time. For these reasons the solid action thriller with a sci-fi element may even have parents feeling comfortable about sending their older teens into the Source Code.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Source Code.
What roles do men and women play in this film? Which gender would be a more likely terrorist suspect? Why? Do you think Colleen Goodwin would have behaved differently if she were a man? Why might filling that role with a male character have made the scenario more difficult for the audience to believe?
What "holes" can you find in the science of this movie? How much liberty would Cpt. Stevens have in navigating through the train and even outside of it if he was confined to one person’s memories?