Colter Stevens awakes inside a military controlled pod. They tell him that a recent train explosion was a terrorist attack and that another is due at any moment. Using a revolutionary technology called ‘the source code’ they can send his consciousness back in time to inhabit the body of another man (‘Shaun’) and re-live the train explosion. He only has 8 minutes to try to find some vital clues before getting pulled back into the pod again. Will he locate the bomber? And do his actions have any meaning within the source code?

Source Code (2011) – Director: Duncan Jones

Is Source Code appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 93 mins

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller


Crafting a smart science-fiction thriller that uses its premise to captivate an audience instead of bamboozle them is no easy task; something which Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ found out when simultaneously delighting and baffling audiences worldwide. ‘Source Code’ is sleeker and more readily accessible fare. It focuses on the human story first – that of a confused soldier trying to come to terms with the incredible situation he has been forced into – and works the reality bending elements around it.

We relieve the explosion on a train many times and get to explore the various personalities and mini-stories that the passengers represent. The tragic nature of an unavoidable attack adds poignancy to the increasingly focused efforts of Colter Steven (Gyllenhaal) as he learns a little more each time he fails. Gyllenhaal is excellent throughout in providing the audience with a relatable ‘in’ to the story. As his bewilderment gives way to understanding (and, later, rebellion) so we are taken along with him. Christina Warren (Monaghan), as the love interest whom represents the normal life that Stevens should be leading, further adds to the human element of the plot. Her performance adds a real personable touch to a movie that could easily have slid into impenetrable metaphysics. The action is tight and self-contained – never filling explosions for the sake of it, nor being too coy with the thrilling set pieces.

Part ‘Bourne Identity’, part ‘Quantum Leap’ and part ‘Groundhog Day’, ‘Source Code’ takes the concept of reliving the same piece of time over and over until you get it right, and injects it with a fast paced and gripping thriller about trying to prevent a terrorist attack, whilst somehow also finding time to explore the nature of self-determinism and parallel worlds. The science-fiction element boosts what would otherwise have been a standard ‘stop the bomb’ plot, so, at only 93 minutes long, ‘Source Code’ is buoyed into becoming a punchy bite of smart action entertainment that never gets *too* smart for its own good.


Within the first ten minutes of the film the train that all the characters are on explodes in a large fireball. Although this is to happen several times throughout the film, the first occasion is likely to be a big surprise. The resulting fireball lasts around 10 seconds and consumes all the passengers on the train but happens fast enough that no suffering is seen. On the second occasion ‘Shaun’ (the person on the train that Stevens is ‘possessing’) is thrown forwards with force. Later occasions employ slow-motion for the explosion, and on one occasion a female character throws her hand up to defend herself, and later in the film the explosion is played out in several differing ways in quick succession, but each time no direct suffering is shown and, of course, the surprise element is lessened with each repetition.

Stevens is desperately trying to track down who on the train is the bomber. He zeroes in on a middle-eastern looking passenger and is criticised for jumping to conclusions and employing ‘racial profiling’. There is a strong elbow into the face when he confronts the man. A later confrontation by Stevens results in his breaking a passenger’s jaw.

When Stevens is within the machine that controls the source code, he is talking to a female control officer. She has the ability to use the machine to explore Stevens’ thoughts, memories and dreams. He catches himself thinking about sexual things and, embarrassed, stutters, ‘not like that, I wouldn’t!’ We see no imagery to accompany this moment and it is subtle. Later, ‘Shaun’ says, ‘Women mess up my name,’ and that they call him, ‘Get off’.

One established character is shot and killed. Another character reacts emotionally to this and responds with anguish and anger. However, a course of action quickly presents itself and the character is comforted.

There is moderate to strong bad language spread throughout used as expletives and cursing, and it is very difficult to avoid any of these occurrences.

There is a shot which focuses on extensive physical damage. We see someone who is missing a large portion of their body although, as they are sedated, there is no suffering. There is also no blood or gore but indistinguishable ‘insides’ are shown to have spilled out of the torso. The shot lasts 5 – 10 seconds and is used for an emotional moment.



Source Code’ comes from the same director as the equally smart hit, ‘Moon’, and showcases a skilled hand that knows how to balance a story that, in other hands, could have been a confusing mess. The movie is adult in tone and does not direct itself towards a younger audience. Due to mature and measured storyline and the bad language throughout, we would not recommend ‘Source Code‘ for children under the age of 11, and for those aged above, we would encourage caution based on the personal tastes and standards with regards to cursing in particular and the violence, although it is in context and minimal throughout.

  • Violence:  2/5 (several instances of punching, hitting with hard objects, and physical intimidation. Minimal blood or suffering)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (Stevens starts as very distressed at his circumstances and becomes frustrated with the lack of information he receives. He is emotional when dealing with the consequences of his actions)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (the initial explosion comes as a shock and may scare)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (occasional mild suggestiveness)    
  • Bad Language: 5/5 (moderate cursing throughout the entire movie. One strong usage)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (the movie deals with a terrorist plot as well as the tragic tale of loss of human life. Several characters react strongly to these circumstances and the tension is often high)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of destiny, terrorism, living in the moment, moral duty, and individualism against determinism

Words by Mike Record


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