Review: Source Code

(M) ****

Director: Duncan Jones.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright.

HOT on the heels of his excellent debut Moon, director Duncan Jones has crafted another cerebral sci-fi that will keep you thinking and guessing, as well as entertained.

There are some key similarities between Moon and Source Code - the genre, the intelligence, the clever use of a limited budget and sets, and the reliance on one star to carry the workload.

That was Sam Rockwell in his first film, and here it's Jake Gyllenhaal, who does a great job holding the entire film together and providing a key human core to what could have been an emotionless thriller.

Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, an American soldier who must figure out who blew up a passenger train bound for Chicago before the bomber sets off a second device in the heart of the city.

The trick here is that Stevens is hunting the terrorist via a secret government device called Source Code, which allows him to travel back in time for the eight minutes leading up to the blast... again and again until he gets its right.

This adds a level of frustration to the film, making it akin to playing a video game and getting stuck on one level, but its Groundhog Day concept is a fascinating twist on the "find the terrorist"-type thriller.

The possibility for repetition (and annoyance) is high, but it doesn't get bogged down, moving at a great pace and clocking in around 90 minutes. Punchy editing, Ben Ripley's sharp script and Jones' assured direction keep the action moving nicely and we also get a nice balance between the tense eight-minute bursts of investigation on the train and the nice emotional touches that help us get to know Stevens, experiment controller Goodwin (Farmiga), scientist Dr Rutledge (Wright) and even Stevens' travel companion on the doomed train Christina (Monaghan).

The search for some extra meaning at the end of the film does seem a bit of an afterthought, the pacing and repetition may put some people off, and the occasionally necessary exposition is heavy but this intelligent sci-fi-thriller is a worthy follow-up to Moon that marks Jones as one of the best new filmmakers around.

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