Source Code Movie Review: Groundhog Day With Gadgets

A movie about war that isn’t a war movie and a thriller about a terrorist that isn’t really about terrorism, Source Code effectively rattles audience nerves with the shock and awe of its detonating special effects but is essentially hollow and mechanical at its core. And a film about mass fatality making that fatal mistake of conjuring a one-size-fits-all calculated plot mixing sci-fi and soap opera, and likely not appealing as either.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Captain Stevens, a bewildered helicopter pilot shot down in Afghanistan who finds himself imprisoned under immense secrecy behind glass in a hi-tech US government science lab. And with his body parts under the complete control of a dutiful but tight lipped Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) pushing computer buttons on the other side of the window, Stevens finds himself thrust repeatedly into the past. And inexplicably inhabiting another man’s body on board a suburban commuter train about to be blown up by a terrorist, on the outskirts of Chicago.

Frustrated with being constantly ripped to shreds and tossed into the afterlife and back, even if he’s assigned a tempting potential girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) on board, Stevens demands answers. And is presented with an elaborately wacky, hocus pocus premise concocted by obsessed head scientist at the lunatic lab, Doctor Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). Involving supernatural brain capabilities in the crucial minutes after death, enabling a fresh corpse to transcend time and space and morph into a James Bond type operative on espionage detail. And up to the task of intercepting terrorist conspiracies. Okay…

UK director Duncan Jones, who previously earned critical accolades with his claustrophobic, meditative sci-fi outer space soliloquy, Moon, is less successful this time around in attempting to wring emotional weight out of what is essentially a movie about machinery. And what too-little-too-late Hollywood happy ending melodrama has to do with terrorism or the invasion of Afghanistan in Source Code, is anybody’s guess. Persistent enigmas which might have benefited significantly from Gyllenhaal’s monotonously repetitive, retroactive post-mortem prophetic powers here.

Source Code: Groundhog Day With Gadgets.

Summit Entertainment

Rated PG-13

2 stars