Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
The director Duncan Jones fulfils the promise that he showed with the patchy Moon with this superior sci-fi that takes place in the ether between Minority Report and Groundhog Day.
Sci-fi is a genre that is so difficult to do well. AI, The Adjustment Bureau and Battle: Los Angeles all attest to this fact. However, when successful - films such as Blade Runner, Alien and Metropolis spring to mind - the genre can produce some of the unforgettable titles of cinema. Source Code can already claim to be the most enjoyable movie to have been released in cinemas so far in 2011.
It's a train wreck to begin with - literally. Afghanistan war-veteran Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in a Chicago commuter train opposite the attractive Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). Colter is confused when Christina mistakes him for her friend Sean Fentress and she's a bit bewildered by his strange behaviour: wondering who she is, unable to find his train ticket and baffled by his refusal to accept that he is the man she says he is.
When he ventures into the train toilet he is bewildered to see that his reflection is that of someone else. Stunned, he makes a nuisance of himself on the train, much to the bemusement of Christina. It's the kind of opening to a film that immediately throws the audience into the action and so it's a huge surprise when after eight minutes the train blows up and kills all those on-board, including our leading couple. Eat your heart out Pulp Fiction, but like the Tarantino classic, death doesn't put a stop to any of the characters' exploits.
Stevens wakes up in a capsule and on a television monitor in front of him is a concerned-looking army officer Colleen Goodwin, played by Vera Farmiga. Goodwin informs Stevens that he is part of an army programme whereby he can transport into the body of a similarly built individual and relive the last eight minutes of their life. In doing so, Stevens can investigate the crime as and when it took place and help the authorities with their investigations. Farmiga, who was Oscar-nominated for her performance in Up in the Air, gives a fabulous turn that, with a twitch of her mouth, runs a gamut of emotions from concerned colleague to good soldier to friend. She is backed by the always excellent Jeffrey Wright.
And so Stevens jumps back on the train, but this time with a mission to find the bomb and apprehend the bomber. He has only eight minutes on each visit, and the tension mounts for this reason as well as the fact that nobody knows how many times Stevens will be able to return to the scene of the crime.
The magic of the film is that while ostensibly it's a thriller about combatting terrorism, Jones allows the audience to get equally lost in a romance. It's clear from the start that Stevens is taken by his travelling companion, Christina. The heartache is that each time he encounters her, he knows that she has eight minutes to live.
Source Code is funny, tense, clever, exciting and romantic - I can't wait to make my own repeat visits.
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