The fact that Source Code director Duncan Jones is the son of David Bowie is merely a fun bit of trivia and does not, in any way, give him a single degree of artistic credibility. Now that that’s out of the way…Jones’ first feature, 2009’s Moon, was a fun experiment in sci-fi with a tour-de-force (I believe that’s the kind of thing film critics say) performance by Sam Rockwell that didn’t really hold up for me on subsequent viewings. His new film is also an experiment in the sci-fi genre that aspires to be thought provoking, but is ultimately nothing more than yet another dull entry in the parade of post-Inception high-concept thrillers (see: The Adjustment Bureau, Limitless, et al.).
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Colter Stevens, a soldier who is assigned the role of detective by a mysterious military organization. His mission is to uncover an inconspicuous terrorist on a Chicago commuter train before he/she disembarks and detonates a large bomb. The story’s twist is that the bomb has already been detonated and Colter is actually experiencing the same eight minutes on the train of the past repeatedly, Groundhog Day-style. Every time the mission fails, Colter ends up back in his small military cell where he communicates with his mysterious higher-ups via video screen. So to summarize: it’s a whodunnit with a sci-fi twist where viewers watch the same eight minute sequence over and over until Colter investigates both the case and his instructors to the points of reveal. There’s an additional unexpected reveal at the end, which is either a twist, a message, or both though it’s not really effective as any of those options. Jones is an adequate director, but the film suffers from bland sets, characters, and actors, most notably the cast of truly unlikable train passengers. Not a terrible film, but certainly not a must-see.
Source Code opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.