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Movie Review

Source Code

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence including disturbing images, and for language.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Sci-Fi Action Thriller Drama
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 1, 2011 (wide)
DVD: July 26, 2011
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Relevant Issues
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death in the Bible


Featuring: Jake Gyllenhaal—Colter Stevens
Michelle Monaghan—Christina
Vera Farmiga—Carol Goodwin
Jeffrey Wright
Russell Peters—Max Denoff
more »
Director: Duncan Jones
Producer: Jeb Brody—executive producer
Stuart Fenegan—co-producer
Fabrice Gianfermi—executive producer
more »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

“Make every second count”

Copyrighted, Summit Entertainment

Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) suddenly wakes up on a moving train, confused about where he is and how he even got there. An attractive woman, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), begins to chat with him, calling him Sean. As he keenly absorbs his new environment, Colter adamantly denies knowing her. As he stares out the window, the passing scenery creates a dim reflection of a strange man. In seeing this, Colter rushes to the bathroom, and, to his horror, sees another man’s reflection. Not long after this, the train explodes, and Colter jerks awake and finds himself strapped in a harness at some classified military base.

At first, Colter is frantically confused, until Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) does memory exercises to have him remember his location. He’s slowly told that he’s part of a revolutionary science program named Source Code. After a human’s death, the brain’s short term memory, eight minutes exactly, stays alive. Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) captured the last eight minutes of Sean Fentress’ life. Since both Sean and Colter were compatible, Colter is able to enter Sean’s mind and relive the last eight minutes repeatedly.

Colter soon finds out that both Christina and Sean were among the hundred victims who died that morning from a bomb attack on a commuter train. Colter’s mission is to use Sean’s last eight minutes to first locate the bomb and the identity of the bomber. Time is of essence, since the bomber has already threatened to bomb a larger section of the city. Though the theatrical trailers reveal the bulk of the plot, “Source Code” still delivers strong plot revelations at successfully timed increments to keep the momentum going.

Right at 93 minutes, “Source Code” wastes no time in immediately jumping into the plot. Though Colter constantly repeats the last 8 minutes of Sean’s train ride, each time is different and equally urgent. His interactions with the passengers and with Christina never grow stale. Though full of action, “Source Code” differs from the recent slew of action films in that it also speaks of humanity; helping it along the way is the superb talent of the entire cast.

With a touch of romance and emotional scenes, this sci-fi film offers a survey of other genres. Though the science is a bit outlandish, it’s well explained. Perhaps the film’s biggest weakness is its ending. The film could have easily ended five minutes before its final scene. Though the ending is definitely thought-provoking, it’s hard not to feel as if it were tacked on merely to leave open the possibility of a sequel.

objectionable content

There are about 20 uses of profanity (4 GD, 5 sh*t, 3 as*, 4 d*mn). In a fit of rage, Colter shouts “f__k you”. The word “d_ck” is used at least once. The word “h_ll” is used 3 times. God and Jesus’ names are misused 3 times.

The sexual content is on the mild side. Refreshingly, the growing romance between Colter and Christina is sweet. They only share two kisses, which are both closed mouth. In one scene, Colter tells Christina he’s had vivid dreams of her, but immediately points out that he didn’t mean sexual dreams. Near the end, a comedian begins to make the train laugh with a sexual joke that his name is “get off” since that’s what women tell him when he’s on top of them.

There is also mild gore content in the film. With the train repeatedly blowing up, some people are shown briefly burning, including the main characters. Though a bit disturbing, these are heavy in CGI effects and appear a bit fake. A comatose man is shown with half of his brain exposed, covered in wires. His lower body is also missing, and his internal organs are shown contained in a plastic capsule.

The film is very heavy in violence. In trying to find the bomber, Colter holds several people at gunpoint. There are several fight scenes. In one fight, Colter breaks a passenger’s jaw, and, in another, he’s pushed into the railroad tracks and gets hit by an oncoming train. Though the scene turns black, right before impact, the audience can still hear the “thud”. One of the train officers tasers Colter. Two characters are shown getting shot in their abdomens. They are then shown slowly dying in a pool of their own blood. The camera zoomed in on the female, as her eyes noticeably became glossed over.

Though he does use violence in finding the bomber, it is definitely understandable, since, to his defense, the Source Code is labeled as merely a computer program. With that said, most of the violence fits within the storyline, so the most consistently objectionable content is be the profanity.

Aside from these two deterrents, the main protagonist has several admirable qualities. Colter is brave, relentless and dedicated in finding the bomber. He also values life and tries to save Christina and the other passengers, despite his leaders’ direct orders not to.

During one of his last trips within the Source Code, Colter reflects upon all the happiness and laughter within the train’s cabin; the passengers are finally getting along. He tells Christina that there is so much life. He then asks her what would she do if she had only seconds left to live. She responds that she would make those seconds count.

Likewise, Christians should be united and not allow petty things to divide up the body of Christ. In Ephesians 4, Paul urges Christians to “live a life worthy of the calling”. He further tells us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”.

Overall, “Source Code” is a solid thriller with a surprisingly good amount of human content. This mostly consists of Colter Stevens’ journey of acceptance in what life has dealt him. Though I recommend “Source Code,” I cautiously do so only to mature viewers. Parents should probably see it first, before allowing their children to do so.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I just saw this movie… and it’s GREAT! Maybe it was seeing it late, and that I was brooding and moody all day, but I loved it. The plot is intriguing, sci-fi, but believable enough for sci-fi watchers. The actors are good, and I adore Michelle Monaghan.

Okay, details. Hmm. Let’s see, don’t let little kids watch this movie. People get blown up, and shot, tasered, etc. It’s not nice. The violence isn’t really bad, but I play “Resident Evil 4” for fun, so my measure of “high gore” is up in the clouds. Anyway, it’s not too bad. You do see one person who has been terribly maimed, and that’s wince-worthy. There’s not much swearing, so no stress about that. No sex that I saw, just a few kisses.

The plot—it’s good. It’s a cool movie, it pulls you in, and even though I totally anticipated the ending about 30 minutes beforehand, it was still awesome. Overall? Go see it! Best movie I’ve seen all year!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Andrew, age 19 (USA)
Positive—I took my son, 16, to opening night after checking reviews for content. Apart from the initial shock of some nasty trailers for other movies, this was a great movie and put us in the mind of “Inception”/Bourne/“Avatar.” It was mostly wholesome and clean with drama, tension, a good story and very little to disappoint. There is a bit of language now and again, which fits with the tension of the moment for a man in distress who is not a professing Christian. The relationship with the girl is pure and despite the alarming content of the storyline, there is the sense of a very happy ending.

I wished it had been slightly longer, but there is a lot to talk about and to leave to the imagination. They could even make a sequel… or prequel as there is a combat/father son relationship theme, government intervention, the honor of military code and respect for the living and the dead. And where did the happy couple go to? Satisfying movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Christopher Winter, age 55 (USA)
Positive—This movie kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. If I was the type of person who bites their fingernails when anxious, there would have been a small pile of shavings under my seat when the movie was over. I was glad the director didn’t use the shaky cam method, because I’m starting to get tired of that, and, to me, it makes things confusing.

The story was engaging; Jake G’s performance was exceptional; the villains had a satisfying amount of creepiness about them, and it had a surprise ending. I couldn’t ask for more.

I would recommend it to mature moviegoers who aren’t too squeamish about violence: there is some blood, many characters “die” over and over again, and at least one of those deaths is VERY wince-inducing. A man is shown with part of his brain coming out of his head and some of his stomach parts showing. Very gross, but not lingered on. And there is one f-word… that’s the only time I noticed cussing, but there was probably a little more than that.

Anyway… I really liked it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sophie Huddleston, age 18 (USA)
Positive—WOW! This movie had my friend and I talking about it for days! Very entertaining and thrilling!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dawn, age 37 (USA)
Positive—If you like “Inception,” the Bourne films, and Matrix style flicks, you’ll love “Source Code.” It’s a real thinker. No mindless drama, no lame dialogue, no hidden messages. Jake Gyllenhaal was outstanding!

One f-bomb and a few 4-letter words. No sex or sensuality, no drugs/drinking, and no alternative lifestyles. Mild violence, little blood, no gore. Ok for young teens cleanwise, but might be over their heads. Read the other POSITIVE reviews listed here, good insights! Enjoy!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Diana O, age 42 (USA)
Positive—“Source Code” is a film I had wanted to see for a long time. I finally received an opportunity to see this movie when my friend asked me if I wanted to go and see it. Without hesitation I said “yes,” and off we went! I loved every second of this movie. From start to finish, there are surprising moments that keep you on the edge of your seat. I was very impressed with the quality of this film. The acting was very believable. The character development needed work in some areas of the film, and the CGI was a bit much. Still, it did not take away from the appreciation I had for this film. The offensive moments, such as the language and the violence, were a bit heavy, but if you are one who can overlook these moments you may actually enjoy this film. I know I did.

Definitely not a children’s movie. If you plan on seeing this movie, which you should, then leave the children home and hire a sitter. Two thumbs up from this writer!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Alexander Malsan, age 21 (USA)
Positive—For the most part, I agree with the main review on this film. What I found enjoyable was the chance to dig around in my head a little concerning a film that was tricky to comprehend and that lead you to another dimension. Nice to have that in a film. I also thought that the incidental garbage that typically gets strategically placed was not relied upon. Often what is politically correct is cameoed in, just to seem appealing to different segments of the population. I appreciated the producers simply making a thought provoking sci-fi experience.

I left my 12 year old behind and took my 14. I think this was mostly appropriate. On moral grounds, it was interesting to contemplate the “use” of an illegally garnered human remains in order to benefit the rest of society. Seemed like a question of when is God’s sovereignty good enough or when do we stop intervening in God’s business. Good flik.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Eric Bell, age 46 (USA)
Positive—Very well made film with a clever script. It is not a film for children. I found it unsettling—but I have tested on a psychological profile to be fearful of death. I think another reason for its being unsettling is that a government official wishes to impose involuntary servitude on a good man. There is some PC stuff about ethnic profiling—but then the movie industry has consultants to ensure that there are not boycotts of films, etc., so it is perfectly understandable.

Michelle Monaghan successfully passes for 8 years younger than her age and acts well into the bargain. I highly recommend this film despite the violence and profanity. I was reluctant to see the film, because, from the promotions, I thought it was like “The Matrix”—which I found slow and boring. I was wrong. It is a first class film, and there is hardly a dull moment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Blue, age 53 (Australia)


Comments from young people
Positive—This is probably the best movie yet in 2011, and will still be high on that list when the year is up! One reason I enjoyed this movie so much is that the plot reminds me of an extended “Twilight Zone” episode, where things are not always as they seem.

Colter becomes very anxious when it is impossible to have his father contacted, and is not informed of what has happened to his Unit. Tension builds throughout the film, as he slowly learns (in the 8-minute window), of his personal life before this mission.

Another way to describe the movie is to mix “Avatar” and “Inception,” except more original than “Avatar,” and somewhat simpler to understand than “Inception.”

Interactions between Colter and the train’s riders are both entertaining and extremely awkward to watch, if you can imagine roughly confronting a stranger on terrorism grounds, in front of 50 other passengers. Jake Gyllenhaal shows fantastic range here, effortlessly portraying not just a man on a mission, but one with a soft side, as well.

What’s interesting here is that he begins to fall in love with Christina, even though he only gets to know her for 8 minutes at a time while on the train, and she has known Sean Fentress for a long time, but now he has a new personality, via Colter Stevens.

In a moment of extreme frustration, Colter shouts the F-word at someone. Other than that, language is fairly low for a PG-13 rating. There are a couple brief sexual references, such as the “dreams” he tells Christina he’s had, as mentioned in other reviews, and a comedian on the train jokes about women telling him to “get off” of them in bed.

The violence is moderately high, with gunshots being the worst of it. However, one scene shows a man with part of his brain and abdominal organs exposed—this could definitely disturb younger viewers.

This is only director Duncan Jones’s second feature, after the much-acclaimed and smaller-budgeted 2009 film “Moon.” However, with these two movies alone, he has proved that he knows how to make a rich and emotionally satisfying science fiction story.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Dan Dorland, age 17 (USA)
Positive—This movie was great! The first thing I want to say is LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME! Way to violent for kids under 10. Plus they swear quite a few times, including the F-word, which kind of bothered me. There were no sexual scenes, only a couple kisses between the two main characters. In one scene, Colter tells Christina that he has been having vivid dreams about her, and she automatically assumes dreams about sex, but he immediately tells her not about sex. Other than those things an amazing movie.

Definitely worth the money to see it in the theatre. I might even go a second time!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Brianna, age 14 (USA)
Neutral—All I have to say about this movie is… meh. It didn’t completely suck, but it wasn’t exactly “good”. The story had amazing potential… but it fell flat.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Lili, age 13 (Canada)
Positive—This movie was really good. The acting was great, and I enjoyed it. Although they did use some language, the movie was amazing!!!.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Noah, age 13 (USA)
Positive—Before I saw this movie, I wondered if it was going to be just another one of those ridiculous action movies where there was nothing but violence and cursing. I was eventually proven wrong, even though some of that content was in it. Captain Colter Stevens is placed in a very stressful situation, when he is slowly given confusing information from the operators of the Source Code. It’s very easy to understand how he could have been feeling and without thinking, shouting the f-word at them in a tantrum of rage, even though it wasn’t particularly necessary to put that word in the film.

The violence wasn’t very frequent throughout this movie, it was more about figuring things out than just mindless destruction and killing. In my opinion, this is a fantastic movie, and I would recommend it, but perhaps not for people who are very easily offended. Very entertaining.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jamie Rorke, age 14 (Australia)
Positive—Great movie. Not offensive. See it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Tyler, age 12 (USA)