Re:View – ‘Source Code’

The Arts

Every SF film has to pass what we here at Admin call the ‘Ming Mong’ test, after Victoria Wood’s parody of Dr Who in which the hero blusters over the scientific explanation by referring to the complicated science as ‘interplanetary ming-mongs’.

Well, ‘Source Code’ certainly has more than its fair share of techno-ming-mongs – dense gibberish designed to confuse audiences into believing a highly unlikely set-up. Having said that, it’s not as silly as ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ and much better directed.

Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on a Chicago-bound train in another man’s body, and has eight minutes to foil a terrorist before being whisked back to his own body in a different time and place. And he’ll keep on going through the experience until he gets to stop the bomber, because the guy will strike again in a few hours.

The explanation for how he can do this defeated me even on detailed examination, but director Duncan Jones, the former Zowie Bowie who made such a great job of ‘Moon’, has something up his sleeve that defeats most action directors – he gets truthful performances from his stars. So the two women in Jake’s life, Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga, who play girlfriend and military supervisor respectively, deliver memorable turns that make the whole thing real. Jake is required to get angry and run about, but the femmes make the show work.

Also terrific is Jeffrey Wright, the inventor of the process who cares less about his grunts’ lives than the war applications of the machine. The scenario gets through its ‘Groundhog Day’ repetitions quickly to find new ground. The set-pieces are tense, the construction holds and only a complicated 2-minute coda seems a step too far.