After “Moon,” his captivating 2009 debut, Duncan Jones triumphantly returns with “Source Code,” a mind-bending sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Capt. Colter Stevens, a veteran Air Force pilot assigned to prevent a terrorist attack on Chicago.
The catch, in this case, is that the attack has already happened. Stevens, an unwitting guinea pig in a government experiment, must go back in time to gather information about a plot still in the making.
Can he change history, saving the commuters on a train packed with explosives? Or is he merely on a fact-finding mission, powerless to prevent an impending catastrophe?
These are the questions “Code” toys with, sometimes offering answers that confound as much as they entertain.
Whether the movie’s logic holds up is debatable, as it tends to play fast and loose with its own dubiously established rules, but the action is never less than thrilling.
Gyllenhaal, a versatile talent who’s equally adept as a physical comedian and a desperate hero, injects the right amount of urgency into the proceedings.
Here, he plays off two leading ladies: Goodwin (Vera Farmiga, of “Up in the Air”), the military liaison who dictates the terms of Stevens’ mission, and Christina (Michelle Monaghan), a pretty passenger aboard the doomed train.
Both are compelling figures in the unfolding drama, Christina as Stevens’ romantic interest, and Goodwin as a seemingly cold-blooded taskmaster who comes to sympathize with her ill-fated charge.
To reveal more about “Code” would be to rob it of its mystery.
It’s a brilliant brainteaser, “Groundhog Day” re-imagined as a Philip K. Dick adventure, and though its narrative logic seems to fall apart in the end, the rollercoaster ride it takes us on is well worth a go.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
Written by Ben Ripley
Directed by Duncan Jones
Running time 1 hour, 33 minutes