Is eight minutes enough time to write three letters? One for Duncan Jones, praising his existential bent in film, one for Jake Gyllenhaal (“best thing you’ve done since Zodiac,” his would read) and one for… errr… Michelle Monaghan… no, probably doesn’t deserve a note, best send one to Vera Farmiga.

This may sound like gobbledegook but I’ve just watched Source Code: Duncan Jones mind-bending accompany piece to Moon. Like Bowie junior’s debut, it deals with issues of identity and sense of self, but second time around Jones has injected a blockbuster twist into the heady, thoughtful mix. Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a US helicopter pilot drafted as a test subject for a highly implausible scientific test. Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright are convincing enough as his suspicious military handlers to make you believe the premise though, which is – wait for it – Sliding Doors meets Strangers on a Train meets Die Hard. Gyllenhaal’s Stevens relives the final eight minutes as a passenger on a commuter train, which is destined to blow up in spectacular style outside of Chicago. His mission, of course, is to find the bomber and as he puts it “save the world!”

With everything hanging by a thread, it’s only just pulled off. Jones direction is slick, quick and unfussy. Following Moon with Source Code pegs him as an ambitious director too, but so far his project choices have been his bravest moves, creatively. Gyllenhaal charms his way through 90 minutes, jumping from blind confusion to quick-witted cad in seconds, while the supporting cast is, unfortunately less than impressive – Monaghan is flakey as the love interest and although Farmiga and Wright are superb as shadowy military figures, the characters themselves are lacking any depth. Not to matter though, it’s a tense, sharp and surprisingly funny film with real backbone. It just turns out that I only really need write two letters.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 27 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2011