|Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Source Code"|
***1/2 out of ****
"Source Code" is a science fiction film about a man who is forced to relive the last eight minutes of a bomb-victim's life over and over until he can find out who planted and detonated the explosion. It mostly takes place aboard a commuter train bound for Chicago and it is expertly directed by Duncan Jones ("Moon").
As a thriller, this flick delivers in the best ways. There are rules and there are stakes. You can't get up to take a break because every moment counts. Above all, it keeps you guessing along with the protagonist in completing his given task and figuring out how and why he wound up in this unreal situation. This is a thriller that keeps you involved.
The hollywood conventions for a successful science fiction film are there too: Yes, it has computer generated action. Yes, it has a romantic subplot... I forgive it. This is a high-concept script with good actors who make these things work.
Although it does make the unfortunate mistake of trying to elaborate on the science of this fiction and the explanation we're given doesn't help the film. We would have been better left in the dark on the technological explanation than this failed attempt at scientific credibility. We have been given a good understanding of what our hero is experiencing versus what his instructors tell him he is experiencing. That is all that matters.
This error could have been corrected but many "Outer Limits" and "Twilight Zone" episodes managed to be moving and profound with sometimes even worse jargon. Like a lot of good science fiction that can't manage to live up to the genre's name, it is distracted by relatable human drama and that is not a bad thing.
Near the end there is a moment of bittersweet beauty where I would have been perfectly satisfied if the credits started rolling... but the movie continues in a direction that is sentimental but at least stays thought-provoking. After seeing the disappointingly simple resolution to similar "The Adjustment Bureau", I can give this movie credit for giving it's audience some.
Jones has made a movie that like his previous feature, "Moon," seems to involve a protagonist who slowly learns that his role in an operation is less human and more machine.
Listen to Kenneth Turan's review.