Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Managhan, is kind of a science fiction thriller Groundhog Day. An Afghanistan war veteran, Colter Stevens, (Gyllenhaal) must relive the events of a commuter-train bombing over and over in order to identify the mastermind behind the attack. Each time he “wakes up,” he is sitting across from the very attractive Christina, whom he does not know, though she is chatting away as if have known each other for years. Eight minutes later the train blows up and Stevens is thrust back to start another eight minutes all over again. Source Code is an exciting journey through eight minutes lived over and over again.
The use of a continuous time loop is a well-worn staple of science fiction story telling. Time loops have appeared in episodes of television shows like X-Files, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Supernatural, and Doctor Who, just to name a few. In the film Groundhog Day the time loop storyline very successfully jumped to comedy. There are several factors that make time loop stories very appealing. For one, everyone would like the chance to go back and do something until they get it right. It’s a little like playing a video game over and over until you get past that level and move on to the next one. In real life we have to live with our mistakes and missed opportunities and just make the best of it.
Time loops are also a great way to slowly unravel a mystery. Each time the loop repeats we get more clues and we learn more about the characters. It’s exciting to try to figure out what each new piece of information means and what it will lead to. In Source Code, Stevens is shocked to find himself on a train talking with a woman he does not know. He desperately tries to figure out what brought him to that place, but the train is destroyed only minutes later. Stevens wakes up again, but this time he is in some kind of strange pod with a different woman (Vera Farmiga) speaking to him through a computer screen. He soon learns he is part of a military action to hunt down a terrorist. It is his sole responsibility to find the culprit behind the attack so further attacks can be prevented.