Source Code is the second film from Duncan Jones, who made his debut with the fantastic Moon. He has eschewed extraplanetary bodies this time around and focuses on a train getting blowed up good by a bomb. The trick is that Jake Gyllenhaal is being sent by the government over and over again back to relive the events leading up to the explosion in hopes of finding the bomber. The trailer technobabbles only very slightly, but what we can glean is that Gyllenhaal can be sent back for the last eight minutes of someone’s life, thanks to the fact that he’s “in the source code.” I’m not quite able to track whether they are using “Source Code” or “source code,” as they aren’t quite enunciating enough to tell whether the letters are capitalized.
The rules seem to be that Gyllenhaal is in the body of a person, does not have their memories, and can control them and change what happens. But he is warned that anything he changes there won’t change here, which implies that either he is being cast into a simulation (making the film’s title more logical) or an alternate universe of sorts (which makes less sense given the title).
Trailer and plot synopsis below.
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes with a jolt to find himself on a commuter train heading into Chicago. Although the other passengers all seem to know him, he has absolutely no idea where - or even who - he is. The last thing Colter remembers is flying a helicopter mission in Iraq, but here he is in someone else’s life going through someone else’s morning commute. Before he can do anything an express train zooms by on the opposite track and a bomb explodes, seemingly killing Colter and all the other passengers. Colter comes to in an isolation chamber, strapped to a seat, and wearing his military flight suit. He still has no idea what’s happening, except that he’s being spoken to by mission controller Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who calmly recites a series of memory questions to which Colter is shocked to realize he knows the answers.
He learns he’s part of an operation called “Beleaguered Castle,” but before he can progress any further, Goodwin starts up the machinery and suddenly Colter is back on the train, at exactly the same time he first appeared there, once again speeding through Chicago with the same group of commuters. Colter figures he’s in some kind of simulation exercise, with his task being to find the bomber on board the train before it goes off again. Living the explosion over and over, Colter must uncover the identity of the bomber, while also figuring out what the alternative universe of “Beleaguered Castle” is. Adding to the puzzle, Colter uses the second chance opportunities to make peace with his father, and to find romance with a fellow passenger on the train.