"Source Code" is an amalgamation of "Inception," "Unstoppable" and "Groundhog Day" that forces the viewer to question what's physically -- or metaphysically -- possible in this world -- or another.
OK, the film's concept, created by writer Ben Ripley, might be a little out there. And director Duncan Jones ("Moon") doesn't do the audience any favors by leaving a few things open for interpretation. But "Source Code" remains an emotionally powerful mind-twister worth seeing.
The film opens with Jake Gyllenhaal mysteriously waking up on a train bound for Chicago. He has no recollection of how he wound up there and, for some odd reason, the lady sitting next to him (played by Michelle Monaghan) calls him "Sean." But he's not Sean. His name is Colter Stevens and the last thing he remembers was battling Iraqi gunmen as a soldier in the U.S. Army.
After a few minutes, the whole train explodes and Stevens returns to an odd command center. While there, military receptionist Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) fills him in via computer monitor. A government program is sending Stevens on a mission using the "source code." A finite definition of the "source code" is never given, but it essentially allows Stevens to venture back in time for an eight-minute time frame and gather information. However, his actions don't change the past no matter how much he wants them to.
Goodwin informs Stevens that his mission is to uncover the identity of the train's bomber no matter how many missions it takes. And trust me, it takes more than a handful. He only has eight minutes to work with every time he's sent back to the train, so picking out a shady bomber can be a frustrating experience.
Of course, dying in an explosion every eight minutes takes its toll, too. And as Stevens starts to question why he's in the program, his emotional state starts to crumble. That only makes his task more difficult.
Gyllenhaal puts in a solid performance as the fish out of water. While this role may not be as memorable as his others in "Donnie Darko," "Brokeback Mountain" or "Rendition," Gyllenhaal gives this popcorn flick a dose of humanity. His is a performance of composure and instinct bridled by uncertainty and fear.
Jones' sophomore effort as a director proves to be promising. "Source Code" is largely a film of corrections in that every time it starts to drag, Jones picks up the pace. Every time it starts to feel too sappy, Jones gives the film a shot of reality. The moviegoing public should be curious to see what project he tackles next.
At 93 minutes, the film moves by briskly. Although it's not as beautifully shot, edited or acted as "Inception," it feels just as intelligent, thought-provoking and action-packed. Plus, "Source Code" takes an hour less to finish. That has to be worth something.
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