Source Code (2011)
Duncan Jones’ follow-up to the simply brilliant Moon is another discussion of the concepts of identity and reality. Compared to Moon, however, Source Code is much more of a scientific mess, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks entertainment value or even thematic strength. In short, this year's film is a hybrid between Groundhog Day, The Matrix and Inception, also borrowing some of those films' flaws. The premise we're presented is enticing, as Jake Gyllenhaal time and time again wakes up with the same 8 minutes of leeway on a train which is about to explode. All that he seems to remember is that his name is Colter Stevens, although that is not the name the woman across him (Michelle Monaghan) refers to him by. She seems to know him, even though he doesn't know her. The first time around he is completely ignorant as to why he's there and what's going to happen, but by and by he understands that he has an important role to play, and that if he finds a way to stop the explosion, he might also be able to save himself.
Despite the repetitive and deliberately obscured storytelling, we're instantly sucked into the proceedings, because it is apparent that, as with Moon, Jones is not primarily out to impress CGI buffs, but rather to challenge our minds and conceptions. Ben Ripley's creative script is a good basis for this, and Jones also makes the characters and the action feel remarkably real and close, well helped by Gyllenhaal's and Monaghan's faithful performances. And although films with a premise such as this can be a test for the viewer's patience, Jones handles this well (better than Harold Ramis in Groundhog) by speeding up the repeating portions of the narrative and adding some clever bits of comedy for good measure.
Of course, films dealing with the concept and realization of time and/or parallel dimensions will always face logical challenges which are almost impossible to overcome, and ultimately, Source Code is no exception. The film becomes less existentially interesting and more trite once Gyllenhaal is given godlike powers in order for the filmmakers to sneak in a customary happy ending, but that's not an uncommon development when a talented young filmmaker follows up an independent success with a higher-profile studio-production. That being said, a far too neat ending and a few logical fallacies cannot hide the talent at work in Source Code or the fun and excitement they're able to concoct for large portions of this film's running time.