With only his second film, Duncan Jones runs the risk of becoming tethered to gimmick filmmaking a la M. Night Shyamalan; where the latter became mired in twist endings, Jones shows a penchant for mind-twisting sci-fi thrillers in which characters only gradually come to understand their bizarre situations. He follows the claustrophobic Moon with the much grander action of Source Code, but Jake Gyllenhaal's ex-chopper pilot shares the disorientation of Sam Rockwell's isolated astronaut.
Though scripted this time by Ben Ripley rather than the director, Source Code also repeats its predecessor's unfortunate flaw of letting its audience get ahead of its characters. Gyllenhaal awakens on a commuter train into Chicago with someone else's reflection and, apparently, life. When the train suddenly explodes several minutes later, he is jolted into another disarming reality. Without revealing too much, it turns out he's being sent into the memory of a terrorism victim to find the bomber, repeatedly forced to relive the same eight minutes in order to solve the mystery in a mash-up of Inception and Groundhog Day.
The science behind this is confused at best, though its inconsistencies are somewhat overcome by exposition delivered by Jeffrey Wright's deliriously over-the-top mad scientist. He doesn't have a hunchback and an eye patch, but his performance basically implies them. The shortcomings become more glaring as the plot unravels; in the end, we're left with the message that the laws of physics can be overcome by good intentions.
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