TIME certainly isn’t on the side of the gung-ho hero in Duncan Jones’s fast-paced action thriller.
He has just eight minutes to avert disaster and unmask a bomber, who has planted a device on a speeding commuter train bound for Chicago.
However, there’s a mind-boggling twist: if the hero fails and the bomb detonates, killing everyone on board, the hero can travel back in time to relive the same nail-biting eight minutes, gathering more evidence to solve the case.
Groundhog Day shakes hands with The Matrix in Jones’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to the critically-adored Moon.
While this new film lacks some of the low-budget ingenuity of the director’s eye-catching debut, Source Code is nevertheless an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride that plays loose and fast with our notions of space and time.
On reflection, there are aspects of the high-concept plot that do not make sense and some of the digital effects aren’t as slick and polished as you would expect.
However, Jones and editor Paul Hirsch don’t pause for breath, maintaining a brisk tempo throughout as the clock ticks down relentlessly towards doomsday.
Helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes on a train, sitting opposite Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan).
Confusingly, she calls him Sean and a visit to the bathroom reveals that he is trapped inside the body of a teacher called Sean Fentress.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” smiles Christina as the train explodes.
Colter wakes almost instantly in a top-secret facility under the control of Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), who needs Colter to identify the bomber.
“I don’t know who bombed the train!” rages Colter.
“Then go back and find out,” sternly replies Rutledge, ordering uniformed officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) to send the pilot back into the “source code”, which has been culled from the real Sean Fentress’s memory.
Each time Colter is transported back into the parallel reality, he gathers intelligence about his fellow passengers including businessmen Max Denoff (Russell Peters) and student Derek Frost (Michael Arden).
Source Code doesn’t become too bogged down in the science behind the slam bang thrills, and while Colter is destined to repeat the same journey down the line, the iterations are sufficiently different to hold our attention.
The central relationship between Colter and Colleen draws obvious parallels with Moon, and confirms that Jones is a director capable of eliciting compelling performances from his leads.
Gyllenhaal brings vulnerability to his role, including a heartbreaking scene when he breaks protocol to make an important telephone call.
Farmiga is equally impressive in a role that requires her, largely, to stare down a camera lens.
The romance with Monaghan is a sweet diversion, providing the impetus for a final journey inside the source code to attempt to rewrite a history that cannot apparently be changed.