'Source Code,' A Sci-Fi Version Of 'Groundhog Day'

A soldier must relive the last minutes of another man's life — repeatedly — to stop the terrorist who killed him, and who looks likely to strike again.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

You won't be needing that eye surgery to watch the new movie "Source Code." It's not in 3D. Critic Kenneth Turan says it is part of a much narrower trend. Like "The Adjustment Bureau" a few weeks ago, it's a sci-fi romance.

KENNETH TURAN: "Source Code" is the science fiction thriller version of "Groundhog Day." Really. It starts with Jake Gyllenhaal groggy and haggard on a commuter train headed into Chicago. He thinks he's Air Force Captain Colter Stevens, but the woman seated opposite him, played by Michelle Monaghan, thinks he's someone else.

(Soundbite of movie, "Source Code")

Mr. JAKE GYLLENHAAL (Actor): (as Colter Stevens) How well do you know me?

Ms. MICHELLE MONAGHAN (Actor): (as Christina Warren) Not that well, apparently.

Mr. GYLLENHAAL: (as Colter Stevens) Do you know me well enough that if I did something that looked a little strange and was maybe even a little bit dangerous and I told you to trust me anyway, that you could do that?

Ms. MONAGHAN: (as Christina Warren) No.

TURAN: It turns out that source code is the name for a mysterious process that allows Stevens to go back in time and assume another person's identity for the last eight minutes of that man's life. He becomes a passenger on that train in order to find another passenger who's a mad bomber. The assignment leaves him understandably confused.

(Soundbite of movie, "Source Code")

Ms. VERA FARMIGA: (as Colleen Goodwin) At 7:48 this morning Central Standard Time, a bomb exploded on a commuter train outside of Chicago, killing everyone on board. And that's the train that you've been on.

Mr. GYLLENHAAL: (as Colter Stevens): No. I'm right here. You're talking to me right now.

Ms. FARMIGA: (as Colleen Goodwin) A man named Sean Fentress was on that train. He, for all intents and purposes, is now you.

TURAN: It may sound like a version of hell for moviegoers to have those eight minutes on a train replayed over and over and over again, half a dozen times at least, but the film has come up with a surprising number of variations on that theme. Those repetitions add to the tension as we wonder what Stevens will do next and how that choice will play out.

Gyllenhaal and Monaghan go full out with this far-fetched premise, and if they didn't, this twisty film would be in big trouble. But when his passion is added to her flirtatious presence, science fiction romance is definitely in the air.

MONTAGNE: The movie is "Source Code." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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