Year Released: 2011
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, Jeffrey Wright
(PG-13, 94 min.)
Genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy, Action and Adventure, Mystery and Suspense
"You are eternity’s hostage / A captive of time." Boris Pasternak
Yes, it’s a sci fi thriller, complete with ticking time bombs, fiery explosions, and a taste of time travel. In the end, though, all that science and mayhem is nothing next to our humanity, frail and imperfect as it is.
The film’s surreal opening allows the audience to experience the rapid disconcerting events that usher Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) into a new reality, and initially we are just as confused as he is.
It all starts off peacefully enough. A tranquil pond where the ducks suddenly take flight as a sleek train speeds past. Colter is inside that train seated across from a very attractive young woman who seems to know him even though he has no memory of her. She seems to think he is someone else named Sean Fentress. That’s what the wallet ID in Colter’s pocket says, too, and most bizarre, his reflection in the train’s bathroom mirror shows him Sean’s face instead of his own.It’s all smiles and small talk from the girl (Michele Monaghan) – Christina is her name – a warm cocoon of fuzzy awareness that is not entirely unpleasant until the whole train explodes on them and Colter is blasted out of his rabbit hole. He wakes up in a kind of sphere with a monitor screen in front of him. Army Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga)is the face on the monitor, and she coaxes him into this reality with a series of cards flashing across the screen.
It is clear that Captain Goodwin is willing to tell Colter only so much. His last memory before the train incident is from his recent mission in Afghanistan where he was a decorated helicopter pilot. He is now inside something called Source Code, a program that allows him to take over the last 8 minutes of another person’s life. His mission is to go back to that train again and find the source of the bomb, discover its maker, and report back. It is feared that this bomb is merely the prelude to a much bigger explosion, a dirty nuclear device that will go off in the Chicago area and kill thousands, Captain Goodwin tells him.
Before he can question her more, Colter is back on the train again, seated across from the same lovely Christina. He’s supposed to looking for the bomb and the bomber, but it is clear that Colter is somewhat distracted by Christina, finding the time to kibitz with her before politely excusing himself to search for the bomb and bomber.
The rest of the film relives this same 8 minute nightmare ritual, with Colter getting just a bit more information about the device and suspects each time. Of course, he also gets to know a little more about Christina each time as well, and it becomes clear that seeing her again is as much of his motivation to go back to the train as his sense of duty.
The very simplicity of the plot and the train as its setting is intriguing in itself. First of all, the choice of a train works on many levels. This low tech anomaly is an unexpected twist for science fiction. Like the sensible Colter the train is grounded and its future along the tracks is as predetermined as the explosion that will obliterate it right on schedule. Symbolically the train may be time itself, or maybe life’s journey to a finite end or a new reality. Yet, like the train itself, Colter has no control over the events.
Captain Goodwin as well as Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright),the brains behind Source Code, tells him he has no hopes of saving those aboard the train. They are already dead.
Yet trains are also steeped in mystery and romance, not to mention sexual symbolism. They are the life blood of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock with their echoes of whispered words of passion muffled by clacking wheels, narrow lovemaking in the upper berth, or a grisly murder behind polished mahogany.
Captain Colter Stevens is not immune to that allure. That’s why he ignores Dr. Rutledge and insists that he will save Christina.
So what we really have here is not unlike the science fiction that is the basis of the recent The Adjustment Bureau. The science is a mere tweak, almost a MacGuffin to set up a romance, with the vaguely defined Source Code or the semi competent Adjustment Bureau that which must be overcome for boy and girl to be together.
What we have here is not the soaring science fiction of new worlds and new civilizations. Our heroes are not going where no man has gone before. Colter is going back in time, but it is not H.G. Wells' time travel through the millennium; instead a mere 8 minutes to be relived almost ad infinitum.
Perhaps it is those recurring brushes with mortality that remind Colter and the rest of us what is most important in life, its transience as well as its transcendence.
Our would be hero takes a little time from saving the world – or at least Chicago and its suburbs – to try to save the cute Christina who is sitting across from him on the train. The scientific breakthrough that allows him to travel back and forth to the soon-to-explode train cannot alter the reality of its explosion, but that certainty doesn’t stop Colter Stevens from frantic efforts to save the lovely Christina. Somehow he persuades her off the train before her station with the promise of sharing a coffee together.
Let’s add something a bit more substantial to that. How about a Chicago recipe for Apple-Cinnamon French Toast? Ours is soaked in the fridge overnight beforehand, so the luscious blend of vanilla, apples, and spice is extra rich. Enjoy.
Baked Apple-Cinnamon French Toast
This recipe is an adaptation from "Gale Gand's Brunch" cookbook. Gale Gand is one of my all-time favorite chefs and an early inspiration to me when I started cooking. Gale is one of Chicago's culinary stars and her latest book is filled with great brunch recipes that are perfect for family or holiday get togethers. ~ The Windy City Prince
2 tablespoons butter
6 apples, peeled, cored and cut in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 slices thick Challah bread, toasted
8 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Heat butter in skillet over medium heat until it starts foaming. Add the apple and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Take off the heat and stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cut toast in half diagonally to make triangles. Arrange in overlapping fashion in a buttered 9x13-inch baking dish.
Beat the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in sugar, milk and vanilla. Pour over toast triangles and then spoon the apples over the top. Cover and refrigerate over night.
In the morning, pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Bake uncovered until custard is set (about 50 to 60 minutes). Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Serve with maple syrup.
Recipe Source: Baked Chicago.com