Jones hasn’t strayed far from Major Tom in the follow-up to his excellent directorial debut, Moon (2009). In Source Code, he tells the story of another lone man put upon by society’s misguided good intentions. This time, a soldier must go back in time for only eight minutes (over and over again) to try and stop a bomb from destroying a train headed for Chicago.
While it seems at first like the film might head into the video-game surreality of Tom Tykwer’s generational staple Run Lola Run, where life is lived as if you had as many attempts as you needed to get it right, it soon becomes evident that Jones is not concerned with exploring life’s ‘what if’s'. Instead, he’s looking at a man trapped between two worlds, struggling to find out what’s happening to him and honor his sense of duty.
Ultimately, it remains unclear whether Jones wanted to make an all-out action movie or another cerebrally haunting science fiction piece. Neither wins out over the other. And unfortunately, Gyllenhaal’s performance as the suffering hero is not as convincing as it should be. Real sympathy for his plight doesn’t develop until the end.
Source Code isn’t an outright failure. The music, in fact, is great – old school, almost too Hitchcockian for a modern action movie. If it were straight popcorn fare, it would be quite good – but Jones has already set us up to expect more. Chalk one up to sophomore slumping.
SOURCE CODE | Directed by Duncan Jones, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga (USA, 2011). Opens June 2