Who's In It: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
The Basics: Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) has just awakened on a train across from a strange woman (Monaghan) who knows him. It appears as though he has been here for some time, although he has no memory of it. When he looks in the mirror, he sees someone else's face. And after 8 minutes passes, the train blows up. He wakes up again, this time in a metal pod with someone on a monitor telling him that he is part of a kind of time travel mission and his job is to find whoever planted the bomb on the train. He has to keep going back over and over again, learning new things, including information about himself and his own life. The whole thing is kind of like a cyber-Hitchcock spin on Groundhog Day.
What's The Deal: This movie awakened my seasonal urge to buy ice cream treats and turn my brain off for 100 minutes, so get ready for summer, everyone. The challenge in a film like this is to make the same slice of time seem new and interesting, and director Duncan Jones (Moon) succeeded. There was just the right amount of humor and realism, but it was mostly a twisty-turny, sci-fi, patriotic adventure. And for once, Vera Farmiga isn't playing the mother of an evil child, so that was nice to see. She looks nice in a uniform and doesn't scream once.
Better Than: 2008's Vantage Point, although they use a similar time construct to tell the story. Here, Jeffrey Wright calls the notion of "Source Code" a kind of quantum physics, and if I am going to quote anyone from the film, it's going to be the guy who played Basquiat. Anyway, the fantasy element makes the movie more interesting because anything could happen. Each time Stevens returns to this alternate reality, he has the ability to do something different. Just when the movie starts to get a little bogged down in the repetition, it ends. My hearty applause at the end was partially due to the perfect length of the film--about 98 minutes.
Glosses Over: The notion of profiling in order to seek out a terrorist. Stevens's entire job is to keep going back into the same 8 minutes to find out who planted this devastating bomb, so his method is something similar to stumbling around in the dark looking for a penny on the ground. The red herrings in the story are kind of lame--is it the obnoxious comedian? The nerdy student? Perhaps the old lady or the vaguely Middle Eastern-looking dude coughing? At one point, he half-heartedly teaches Michelle Monaghan to help him and says, "Pretend it's a game." I found this more than a little disturbing, because I am almost positive those words have been uttered in real life by people doing a similar job. However, I highly doubt those people look as good as Gyllenhaal when he hauls someone in for questioning.