Friday, April 1, 2011

Source Code

Groundhog Day meets Twelve Monkeys in this new tale of time travel and alternate realites from director Duncan Jones (Moon) and screenwriter Ben Ripley (Species: The Awakening).

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Colter Stevens, a soldier who awakes in the body of a complete stranger eight minutes before the commuter train he's riding is set to explode. Over the course of the film he will be slingshot back and forth from his reality, a small one-man pod set at an indeterminate time in the future, back into the train reliving these events over and over again.

While in the present his only contact will be with his command officers (Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright) via cam. They won't answer his questions. They only want his help. The bomber who blew up the train will attempt detonate an even larger bomb somewhere in downtown Chicago unless Stevens can identify him and give them the information need to stop him.

Although I'm still unsure how I feel about the film's epilogue, I will say Source Code provides a fun triller with a unique take to the idea of time travel and alternate timelines. The choices these characters must think and struggle through are both well-plotted and well-acted. Gyllenhall is a wise choice for a soldier trapped in a situation he can't understand, and Farminga is a nice compliment as the voice on the other end of the line struggling with how much information she's allowed to give to a man that only wants to talk to his father.

Michelle Monaghan stars as the companion to the man Gyllenhaal has jumped into. She has the challenge of plaing the same scene several different ways and still finding a way to add something new each time. And she succeeds. I've been a fan of her since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and she's gives another strong performance here.

The structure of the film closely Groundhog Day, as the same events are relived with small variation but never actually changed, but the film's confused protagonist searching to stop a terrorist very much resembles Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys. It's the combination of the two that give Source Code a unique feel to a well-worn genre. Even if the film's final act becomes a bit too much like a traditional action thriller the hard choices the characters continually must make, and the broader scope of what their choices means, give it substance as well as style.

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