A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mind-bending sci-fi thriller deals with some pretty heavy stuff -- including death, mourning, and terrorism -- amid the big special effects and go-for-broke action. The main character (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) experiences the explosion of a passenger train over and over as he attempts to find out who's behind the bombing. In addition to the peril and fiery blow-up scenes, there's some swearing (including "s--t" and one "f--k") and scenes that show grave injuries.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up with a start on a train barreling toward Chicago, sitting across from a beautiful stranger (Michelle Monaghan) who thinks he’s her friend. Turns out he’s no longer a soldier in Afghanistan; somehow, he’s been transported inside the body of a teacher named Sean who’s stuck on a train that's about to explode, killing everyone. Eight minutes later, Colter is back in his own body -- which is in a space capsule of sorts run aground in an unspecified location -- and taking orders via computer camera from a fellow soldier, Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She reveals that Colter is part of a highly classified military project known as Source Code. He will be thrown back on the train time and again until he finds the bomb and the person who planted it -- and stops another, bigger catastrophe from destroying the city.
Is it any good?
When a movie is branded and marketed as an action thriller, it had better be transportive; that’s exactly what SOURCE CODE is. Disorienting at first, but in a way that's compelling, the movie changes things up just when you start getting comfortable with what you think the storyline is. Director Duncan Jones keeps things quick and breezy, but he sometimes seems to be ambivalent about how to paint a scene (is it funny? is it brawny?). Nevertheless, this is one movie that will definitely keep eyes glued to the screen.
As appealing as the film’s intriguing (as well as vexing and, it has to be said, sometimes nonsensical) premise is, the human interest story at its heart -- the meditation on mortality -- is even more gripping. Farmiga makes true any role she’s given, and Monaghan and Gyllenhaal make sparks when they share the frame. Though Gyllenhaal isn’t completely believable as a soldier unspooling from the inside as the world around him unravels -- his edges need to be rougher, his desperation more intense -- he grounds his portrayal in pathos and compassion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's violence. Do the explosions and peril featured in this movie have as much impact on you as other kinds of violence?
Which of the movie's characters do you consider to be role models? How do they change/what do they learn over the course of the story?
How does the film address the ideas of death and what we leave behind? What would you want your legacy to be?
- In theaters: April 1, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: July 26, 2011
- Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
- Director: Duncan Jones
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violence including disturbing images, and for language
- Last updated: February 20, 2020
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