Captain Colter Stevens awakens on a train, an unknown woman thinks he's a teacher named Sean Fentress. Just as Stevens is attempting to work out what on earth is going on the train explodes, unharmed he discovers he's part of a top secret military project that enables him to relive eight minutes of a dead man's life. Can he not only complete his mission to thwart an imminent terrorist attack but also change the past?
What do you do next when you've made a critically acclaimed low budget debut movie? For Duncan Jones he decided to cross the pond and helm a mainstream Hollywood feature. Despite this ominous proposition Source Code is a hugely entertaining thriller thanks to Jones' skills at handling familiar sci-fi conventions (notable influences include La Jetée and Quantum Leap) with character driven dilemmas in a way that never underestimates the intelligence of cinemagoers. Meditations on multiverses, against the clock investigations, a blossoming romance and the seemingly immutable fate of our hero all coalesce into an elegant whole with Hitchcockian precision and a dash of the master of suspense's wry humour.
Alongside Jones' assured direction Jake Gyllenhaal is intrinsic to the film's success. Imbuing Stevens with genuine vulnerability we care as much about his predicament as we do about the impending citywide destruction. His relationships with passenger Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) and in particular his military contact Captain Goodwin (a poignant Vera Farmiga) have genuine warmth illuminating the human heart at the film's core. Jeffrey Wright also impresses as the amoral professor in charge, and neither his scientific/philosophical musings nor the character interactions impede the taut pace. Source Code hits the ground running and continues in the same vein for its tightly packed running time.
Refusing to patronise audiences this is a movie that rewards repeated viewings, deftly mixing engrossing human emotions with action thrills. A welcome respite from the brainless blockbusters that dominate cinemas its mind-bending oscillations will prompt many a discussion. Reinforcing the recognisable talents of Duncan Jones Source Code is not only fun and intelligent but without question one of the best films of 2011.