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Duncan Jones
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, Cas Anvar, Russell Peters, Brent Skagford
Writing Credits:
Ben Ripley

Make every second count.

A helicopter pilot (Gyllenhaal) recruited for a top-secret military operation finds himself on a startlingly different kind of mission in Source Code, a smart, fast-paced action thriller that challenges our assumptions about time and space. Filled with mind-boggling twists and heart-pounding suspense, Source Code is directed by Duncan Jones (Moon).

Box Office:
$32 million.
Opening Weekend
$14.812 million on 2961 screens.
Domestic Gross
$54.532 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $30.49
Release Date: 7/26/2011

• Audio Commentary With Director Duncan Jones, Actor Jake Gyllenhaal and Writer Ben Ripley
• “Access: Source Code” Interactive Feature
• Preview


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Source Code [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 11, 2011)

Back in 2008, Duncan Jones opened eyes with his well-regarded feature debut Moon. Jones comes back with a bigger-budget, higher-profile project via 2011’s Source Code.

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself on a mystery train in a chat with a strange woman (Michelle Monaghan). She calls him “Sean” but he doesn’t know who that – or she – is. Stevens takes a few minutes to attempt to get his bearings before a bomb explodes and wrecks the train.

When this occurs, Stevens finds himself transported elsewhere, and a superior named Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) asks him a series of questions about the bomb. Stevens doesn’t understand any of this – he thinks he was just in combat in Afghanistan – and thinks it’s a simulation.

Eventually Goodwin spills some beans and lets him know that the explosion happened earlier in the day and more attacks will follow if Stevens can’t discover the culprit. Stevens repeatedly goes back to the same circumstances and has eight minutes each time to play detective. Along the way, he grows fond of Christina, his seat mate, and decides that he wants to do more than simply play detective: he wants to figure out how he can save her.

If that sounds like an action/sci-fi take on Groundhog Day, that’s because this is essentially the case. This doesn’t make Code a copy of the Bill Murray hit, as the two boast quite a few dissimilarities, but they both do follow a reasonably similar template.

I think Groundhog handles the concept better, though, as Code seems more than a little muddled. The main issue stems from its twists and turns, many of which feel like they exist just for their own sake. Some stories work best if they operate in a reasonably straightforward manner, and I think that would’ve been the case here. Code delves into its zigs and zags so much that it threatens to lose sight of its ultimate goal.

As it stands, the movie’s theme remains intriguing enough to keep us with it; while it almost derails at times, it never quite does so. I don’t know if it finishes on a terribly satisfying note, though. I don’t want to spill too many potential spoilers, but I get the feeling the movie’s finale wants to let its characters have their proverbial cake and eat it too. It takes an ending that I think would be emotionally satisfying and keeps going in a way that nearly cancels out the perceived resonance. This choice doesn’t ruin the conclusion, but it leaves a bit of a bad taste.

Part of the problem is that Code wants to be too many things to too many people. At times it feels like Hitchcock with a sci-fi twist, and other scenes give it a serious Philip K. Dick vibe. It wants to be a rockin’ action movie but it wants to delve into character drama as well.

I respect the ambition behind the attempt to span all these genres, but I think the script and Jones bite off more than they can chew. I’m not sure a more experienced director could’ve kept all those balls in the air, but Jones – talented as he clearly may be – can’t perform the necessary balancing act. The mix of genres doesn’t come together in a particularly satisfying way, so the “jack of all trades” approach undercuts some of the movie’s effectiveness.

Still, I certainly wouldn’t call Code a bad film, and it’s usually a pretty entertaining one. The actual identity of the bomber is something of a MacGuffin – it doesn’t really matter – but it’s fun to see Stevens’ attempts to find him, and his relationships with the two women in his life add some complexity. Christina represents What Might Have Been, and Goodwin gives Stevens a human face with whom to work through all the story’s emotional twists and turns.

Code certainly comes with a good cast, and all involved do reasonably solid work. I find Farmiga’s presence intriguing because I think she looks so much like Gyllenhaal’s sister Maggie. Was this a coincidence or did the filmmakers bring Farmiga on board partly due to that potential connection? I don’t know, but I think it works.

Gyllenhaal handles the lead role’s many facets well, and Monaghan seems fine as the damsel in distress/love interest. Speaking of physical resemblances, though, I must admit that whenever I see Monaghan, I’m thrown off because I think she looks so much like later years Michael Jackson. She’s a pretty woman but man, she really does resemble MJ in the years before his death. That’s not her fault, but it’s something I can’t help but notice every time I see her.

In another visual vein, Code loses some points due to its iffy effects. I know the movie didn’t boast a big budget – IMDB claims it was made for a relatively cheap $32 million – but an understanding of the costs doesn’t make the effects more convincing. The recurring train explosions are a major aspect of the film and they simply look artificial; other effects suffer the same fate, but the train scenes are the most grating because they occupy the most significant aspect of the movie.

Ultimately, I have to view Source Code as a disappointment solely because the film held so much promise. The end result occasionally lives up to expectations, but it’s too inconsistent to truly succeed. Still, it has its moments and becomes reasonable entertainment; if you go into it with an understanding of its flaws, you’ll probably like it more.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Source Code appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie provided a good but not exceptional transfer.

Most of the time, sharpness looked solid, and some examples of excellent definition occurred. However, a few slightly soft elements emerged as well; those were minor, but they popped up on occasion. Still, the movie came with an overall impression of positive delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge haloes were absent. In terms of print defects, I noticed a couple of tiny specks but nothing else.

Like many modern action/sci-fi flicks, Code went with a stylized palette that favored a teal tint. This limited the film’s color breadth, but the tones were fine within the expected constraints. Blacks were acceptably deep, but shadows could be somewhat dense; low-light shots occasionally looked a little murky. I thought the image could’ve been stronger, but it was still positive enough for a “B”.

Expect a nice DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack here. Most of the soundscape’s impressive moments came on the train, and these usually revolved around the explosions. All of these captured a good sense of place and allowed the events to move around the room in a satisfying manner. The action sequences kicked into high gear well and used the different speakers to provide the necessary bombast.

Audio quality was up to modern standards. Effects worked nicely, as they delivered good accuracy and punch. Music was also vivid and lively, and low-end response was always deep and firm. Speech seemed concise and crisp. Everything here satisfied and deserved a “B+”.

Two main extras appear here. We open with an audio commentary from director Duncan Jones, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and writer Ben Ripley. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the story and its development, editing and cinematography, cast, characters and performances, locations, effects, music and some other elements.

Expect a solid track here. The commentary goes into a good mix of movie topics, and the three men cover them well. They keep happy talk to a minimum and give us a clear, enjoyable examination of the movie.

For something interactive, we go to Access: Source Code. This gives us elements under five categories: “Focal Points”, “Expert Intel”, “Cast and Crew Insights”, “Did You Know?” and “Tales of Time Travel”. Within the “Points”, we find clips that get into memory, military use of virtual reality, quantum physics, the “Many Worlds Theory”, Brain Computer Interface,

“Intel” provides notes from Caltech Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics Sergei Gukov; he tells us his opinion of the film’s science. “Insights” features Gyllenhaal, Jones, and actors Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michelle Monaghan, and Russell Peters; they cover the usually thoughts about working together and shooting the movie. “Know” delivers text trivia about various elements connected to the movie, while “Tales” offers text that discusses other books/movies about time travel.

All together, these components combine to provide a nice array of information. The two text pieces dominate, but we find enough video to spice up the proceedings as well. A useful interface allows you to skip from one segment to another, so you’re not forced to wait for them to appear; that allows “Access” to move more quickly and helps allow this to become a positive addition to the Blu-ray.

The disc opens with an ad for The Three Musketeers. No trailer for Code appears here.

Does Source Code represent a sophomore slump for director Duncan Jones? No – it’s inconsistent and not as good as his debut, but it still musters decent entertainment. The Blu-ray gives us mostly positive picture along with solid audio and some interesting supplements. While erratic, Code is worth a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3548 Stars Number of Votes: 62
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