[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B005IVLVAO][/pullquote] Source Code is the second feature film directed by Duncan Jones, who has, sadly, dropped his given name of Zowie Bowie. Folllowing his critical success with Moon, Jones was given a bigger budget and a Hollywood A-lister (Jake Gyllenhaal) to be his leading man for his follow up.
Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, an Army helicopter pilot flying missions in Afghanistan. He wakes up to find himself on a train travelling through the US. Strange. Opposite him is a woman, who seems to know him, but thinks he’s somebody called Shaun. Confused, he gets up and goes to the toilet and the face in the mirror isn’t his own. By now, Stevens is freaking out a little bit, which is not an unreasonable response, but he doesn’t have long to do so, because suddenly there is a huge explosion, and a fireball engulfs the train.
And then Stevens wakes up again, in some sort of capsule, and Officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Famiga) is speaking to him over videolink, asking him what he saw, what he discovered when he was on the train. Because Stevens, it transpires, is a subject in a new military trial of something called Source Code. Military scientists have discovered that when someone dies, the last eight minutes of their life remain as a kind of residual memory for a short time, and they have found some way to harness this, and allow someone, in this case Stevens, to experience what the dead person experienced in the final moments of their lives. The person who bombed the train is still at large and is threatening to unleash a huge dirty bomb on Chicago, and Stevens must live the eight minutes over and over again, until he discovers who the bomber is.
Source Code is one of number of high concept, semi sci-fi thrillers that seem to appear fairly regularly these days (in addition to Source Code, The Adjustment Bureau and In Time have both been released this year) and of which Inception is probably the best example. Source Code is not really in the same league, for two reasons “ the first is that the premise is overly complex and a bit tenuous (why eight minutes, for example? Why not five or ten?) The second is the simple reason that the logic behind the concept doesn’t withstand eight minutes’ worth of thought. It’s pretty imperative to turn off your brain at the door. But if you do so, it’s pretty enjoyable. The action zips along and the dialogue isn’t full of exposition, in the way that so often hampers films of this sort. It goes off at slightly different angles to those the audience expects, which is pleasing and Jones brings some nice flourishes to the direction.