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Source Code
Genre Thriller

Source Code is a Duncan Jones movie. Jones is David Bowie's son but judging from the critical acclaim generated from his first two movies, he'll probably be more famous for being a director with Moon and now Source Code under his belt. If Moon was inspired by Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Source Code comes with its own cinematic concoction, a sleek blend of Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day and Speed - starring Jacob 'Jake' Gyllenhaal... that's pronounced jill-en-hall.

Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is a decorated helicopter pilot, or at least he thought he was, until he's cast into what must be a nightmare. In an out-of-body experience, which seems more like an army training simulation exercise, the soldier is transported back in time and given minutes to find a bomb on a Chicago commuter train again and again... before time runs out.

Just watching the movie trailer made that 1989 TV series, Quantum Leap, reverberate. The popular science-fiction television series, starring Scott Bakula, toyed with the concept of time travel. Taking a seemingly ordinary guy a giving him a chance to inhabit the body of someone else in another year and another place for a limited time. The same concept applies to Source Code, except our hero has been commissioned and isn't playing out the erratic consequences of a freak accident.

Source Code's themes also conjure up nostalgia surrounding Groundhog Day with Bill Murray as a disgruntled weatherman stuck in a 24 hour cycle. The fantasy comedy asked the question, what if you had to live the same day over and over? While every major religion found parallels with the film's philosophy - the same idea is expressed in Source Code as comic aspects of being trapped in a time bubble without realisation come into play.    

Then, Source Code has added the overriding time constraint factor, which has been popularised by films like Speed and more recently, Unstoppable. The ticking time bomb, perpetual motion and thousands of lives at stake thriller has been done many times before. Source Code carries this, raises the stakes and re-energises the genre with its high concept science-fiction, made all the more real by a heightened state of awareness relating to acts of terrorism post 9-11.

Jake Gyllenhaal is a fine actor, who has continued to deliver solid performances since he entered the cult domain as title star, Donnie Darko. He's the unsung hero, starring opposite Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain and Tobey Maguire in Brothers with primary lead roles in Jarhead, Rendition and Prince of Persia. Just like his on-screen personality, it's that quiet unassuming confidence that ultimately wins the audience over. He's always the good guy, even if there are a few darker shades to his personality.

He's supported by Up in the Air's Vera Farmiga, whose beautiful face fills the lone console in Colter Stevens's time capsule. An accomplished actress, nominated for her supporting role opposite George Clooney, she orbits Gyllenhaal's performance like a satellite... monitoring his progress, a cloaked and somewhat omninous observer. Gyllenhaal's romantic interest is played by the exuberant, Michelle Monaghan, whose "repeat" performance is naive - a complementary counterbalance and distraction for Gyllenhaal.

Duncan Jones has created a beautiful film, which has tied several strands from more popular themes and genres together. The result is fresh, entertaining, thought-provoking and exciting. Tense, gripping action sequences keep pace with a story that keeps reinventing itself. Audiences were a little frustrated when Vantage Point relayed an attempted assassination from several perspectives by resetting the clock 24 style. Source Code keeps the narrative alive by giving each window of opportunity a new spin with more repercussions.

While a deceptively simple, Source Code delivers a serious punchline, one that will keep you recycling the story long after the credits roll. It's an instant classic - characterised by the same unassuming nature of its talented star and director. If you liked any of the films mentioned in this review, you will most definitely find Source Code well worth your time. A well-rounded, beautifully executed mystery, sci-fi thriller with commercial appeal portrayed with art house quality.

The bottom line: Gripping.


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