by Adam Nayman and Eric Hynes
Every Monday, two Reverse Shotters wipe the weekend from their bleary eyes and engage in a postmortem on the multiplex trash (good or bad) they took in.
[Beware: spoilers ahead].
At this point, writer-director Duncan Jones at least has an artistic identity. He’s a mildly clever sci-fi conceptualist in thrall to a single conceit: perplexed characters caught in experiential loops. As in his 2009 debut, Moon, which cast Sam Rockwell as a human clone coming to terms with his artificiality, Jones’s script for Source Code features a perplexed protagonist navigating an externally induced identity crisis. Air Force helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens on a commuter train bound for Chicago to find that he’s occupying another man’s body—this realization is quickly topped in the bizarro sweepstakes when the train blows up and he zaps back to awareness in a dank iron capsule receiving transmissions from what appears to be a U.S. Army base. Expository dialogue between our hero and the woman on the other end of the video-conference line (Vera Farmiga) clues us in that he’s an (unwilling?) operative in a high-tech military initiative, in which he has been beamed brain-first into an avatar who’s since been confirmed dead in the train crash’s aftermath in order to figure out who planted the bomb that caused the catastrophe. This is no mean feat since his adventures in “time reassignment” are limited to eight-minute intervals.
The combination of precisely observed repetition-variation gags and solemnly ludicrous pseudo-science gives Source Code a nice enough setup. Unfortunately, as in Moon, Jones isn’t so good at providing payoffs. Continue reading.