Wednesday 7 December 2016

Movies: Source Code ****

(12A, GENERAL RELEASE)

Paul Whitington

Published 01/04/2011 | 05:00

Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) is rapidly carving out a career for himself as a major Hollywood director. Jones wowed the critics in 2009 with his debut feature Moon, a low-budget sci-fi thriller that had echoes of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also of his father's 60s pop song Space Oddity.

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Moon showed huge promise, and the offers started flooded in, but one wondered how this lo-fi director would cope with the pressures of a big-budget production.

Swimmingly, if Source Code is anything to go by. Jones made Moon for $5m, and here he had $35m to play with, but he makes clever use of it in constructing a film that brilliantly pulls off a very difficult trick. Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on a Chicago commuter train sitting across from a beautiful woman (Michelle Monaghan) who appears to think she knows him.

Though she calls him by a different name, he believes he's a decorated USAF Captain called Colter Stevens, who -- last thing he knew -- was flying missions over Afghanistan. In fact he's right: he's now part of a revolutionary new government experiment called Source Code, that allows recruits to enter the bodies of recently deceased people to experience the last eight minutes of their lives.

Stevens is currently involved in just such a mission. The train he's on was blown up that morning by a terrorist who's now intent on setting off an even bigger bomb in downtown Chicago. Colter's mission is to find out who planted the train bomb by repeatedly visiting the carriage where it exploded, and each time it blows up he must go back in and start all over again.

Source Code's plot asks us to swallow a lot, and in less sure hands it could have been a confusing mess. But Jones brings admirable rigour to bear on the story: he uses effects cleverly but not excessively to lull us into swallowing the science, and takes enough time between explosions to flesh out a small ensemble of doomed characters. He is emerging as a genuine talent.

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