In an interview with the RTÉ Guide for 'Prince of Persia' last year, Jake Gyllenhaal could barely conceal his excitement about an upcoming sci-fi yarn he had just wrapped entitled 'Source Code'. He was actually the guy who first stumbled upon Ben Ripley’s script, describing it as "the best I’ve read for years", and it was he who personally brought it to the attention of Duncan Jones (son of you-know-who), the young British director whose debut drama, 'Moon', was then garnering rave reviews, not least in the Gyllenhaal household.
Having seen the movie, one can understand the actor’s excitement and can also appreciate why Duncan Jones is one of the few directors not to suffer from Sophomore Syndrome; that curious Hollywood malaise where a cracking opening offering is inevitably followed by a disappointing follow-up.
When we first encounter Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Source Code', he has awoken with a start to find himself on a train bound for Chicago. He doesn’t know the girl sitting opposite, though she (Monaghan) clearly knows him; he doesn’t know why he is on a train in the first place and worst of all, he doesn’t recognise the face staring back at him from the bathroom mirror. While he’s still trying to piece it all together, an explosion rips through the train and turns everybody on board into toast.
From this highly promising opening, Jones spins a cracking, time warp yarn. It turns out that Gyllenhaal is actually a highly trained soldier who is part of the US government’s Source Code project. Under this programme, it’s possible to be transported into another person’s body for the last eight minutes of their life (don’t ask; it’s the Hollywood science bit). Gyllenhaal is repeatedly returned to the moving train for an eight-minute stint until he can locate both the bomb and the bomber responsible for the terrorist outrage.
Part 'Groundhog Day' and part 'Twilight Zone', 'Source Code' is destined to be this year’s 'Inception'; the smart sci-fi thriller that has people marvelling at the movie’s conceit and chatting away at the office watercooler. Gyllenhaal is well cast as the soldier thrust into this improbable scenario; Michelle Monaghan is fine as his gal pal, and Vera Farmiga scores well as a US government operative.
If there are elements of Hitchcock in the film, they are probably triggered by Chris Bacon’s Hermannesque score. And if you think that any echoes of 'Quantum Leap' are coincidental, listen out for the guy who provides the telephone voice of Jake Gyllenhaal’s father.