Watching the Source Code DVD, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally put in The Adam and Joe DVD, since it starts with a gum advert voiced by Adam Buxton followed by a trailer for Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block.
The movie proper finds Captain Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) reliving the same 8 minutes in an effort to locate a bomber on a train, like Non-Stop meets Sliding Doors. The bomb proves something of a MacGuffin, the real mystery being how Stevens got there in the first place. The film puts us in his shoes, showing the character as he appears to himself rather than his fellow passengers, and drip-feeding information as his true circumstances are revealed to him and to us.
Both storylines are well handled by Duncan Jones; the Stevens plot explores existential themes similar to his debut Moon, and comments on the treatment of soldiers by the US Government, while the train-based high-concept adds a fun ticking-clock propulsion to proceedings. This combination is so smart and stimulating that you can forgive its Spielbergian sentimental streak and the fact that Stevens does quite a bad job of tracking down the bomber.
Source Code does a much better job of balancing its flirty Groundhog Day humour with its exciting action elements than Edge of Tomorrow, partly due to the comparative likability of its two leads, Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan. It’s a rare post-Matrix movie that takes that film’s robust sci-fi concepts instead of its dated aesthetic aspects, and a rarer person-on-a-vehicle movie (Speed, Red Eye) about more than stopping some bad guys.
Aside from a helping of Dunkin’ Donuts product placement so distracting you half expect the director to be credited as Dunkin’ Jones, Source Code is further proof that Jones is no hack.