Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

Michelle Monaghan has a hard job in her new sci fi thriller Source Code, and that’s acting out the same 8 minutes over and over again. In it she plays Christina, a young woman who takes the 8:20 train into Chicago every weekday morning. But this day a disaster occurs and the train is blown up by a terrorist.

Enter Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), who wakes up in the body of an unknown man on that very train, seated across from Christina. He discovers he is a part of a government experiment called the ‘Source Code,’ which enables him to take on the identity of another person for the last 8 minutes of their life. His mission is to find out who the bomber is so that he can prevent the person’s second bomb from going off later in the day, which will kill millions in downtown Chicago.

When Stevens fails to find the bomb during his first 8 minutes, he must return to the train over and over again until the job is completed. Michelle Monaghan spoke of this unique movie and the challenges it represented for her.

Did it feel like you were doing an acting exercise in this film?

Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) and Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

Oh, big time. That’s one of the things that really drew me to this role, because I thought, ‘Gosh, this could be a really unique challenge, doing the same 8 minutes over and over again, but yet keeping it engaging and fresh, and still being able to incorporate a piece of the puzzle into the story.’ That was definitely exciting.

Did you do back story for yourself?

Yeah, I did. I was a gal who wasn’t living my life to the fullest; she takes the 8:20 train in from Northbrook to Chicago every single day to a job that she hates and then she takes it home to a relationship that is really unfulfilling.

Here she is, she sits across the seat from some guy and then she strikes up a conversation with him. I’ve taken a lot of public transport in my life, and sometimes you strike up a conversation with a total stranger and you can share things about your life and be honest.

In a way it’s even more difficult to be honest with yourself or with somebody you know, and he’s just like, ‘Leave, go to India! What have you got to lose? This guy doesn’t appreciate you.’

So I imagine myself sitting in front of a mirror that day, [she whispers) ’Oh my God, I’m going to tell him! I’m going to tell him I took his advice! I’m going to tell him I did it!’ And then that was the inspiration that brought me into each Source Code, I was like, ‘I took your advice.’

What was it like working with Jake Gyllenhaal?

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

He’s so easy to work with because he loves his job. He’s really one of the most supportive actors, truly. He has a real energetic quality about him, as does Duncan (Jones, the movie’s director). We all do, actually. It was a great concoction of creatives. On a personal level he’s got a great sense of humor, which is ace in my book, anytime. We just really, sincerely enjoyed each other’s company, so it was good.

What was it like to see it all come together?

It was incredible! It was so exciting, because even having done it, it was really one of the most collaborative movies in the sense that each Source Code we would huddle for an hour and be like, “Alright. What are we going to do for this one?”

Even at the end of [shooting] the movie I was thinking, “Wow, did we pull it off?” I always knew it was going to be challenging, so when I saw it I was so impressed. I’m impressed because I was really moved, and that’s hard, because you do the work, and you know the work, and yet I felt it. I think it will really resonate with a lot of people, which is do you sacrifice one life to save thousands? That’s a really big, timely issue. It’s provocative.

This film is about parallel worlds, or time travel. You were a journalism major when you went to college and now you’re sitting on the other side of the interview. Do you regret anything in your life, or would you go back and change anything?

Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) and Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) © 2010 Summit Entertainment

In terms of that, I think that was a real good decision for me to make. I still use the who, what, where, when, why, and how all the time for every role that I do. That was her back story.

But I’m a really big believer in everything happens for a reason, like you make certain decisions in your life, good or bad, so you are where you’re meant to be. I would like to go back and change the decision I made at my wedding in not having videotaped it, because I would like to go back and experience my wedding again, because it was such a blur and it was a great day. If I could time travel, that would be what I’d go back to.

How would you answer that question that your character was asked? What would you do if you only had moments to live?

You know what? I hope I’d go out laughing. That’s it. Any of us would answer that we hope we’d be with the people that we love the most, that are near and dear to our heart, I do. I don’t take life too seriously so at that particular moment I feel I probably would. I’d be like, “Wow, this one really took me by surprise!’ I hope I’d just be surrounded by people that I love.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.