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'Source Code' review: An engrossing, flawed attempt to understand a Chicago-area terrorist attack

**1/2 (out of four)

One minute Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakes in someone else’s body on a Chicago commuter train. Eight minutes later, the train blows up and Colter is in some kind of cold, remote vessel, speaking via computer to military officials (Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright) demanding he get back to his mission: figuring out who bombed the train so he can prevent another attack. The bonus is that every time Colter returns to the train, he has another chat with Christina (Michelle Monaghan).

The buzz: Director Duncan Jones (“Moon”) returns for another mind-bending mission of ever-shifting identities, driven by technology that doesn’t currently exist (as far as we know). The script by Ben Ripley brings to mind everything from “Inception” and “Groundhog Day” to “Final Destination” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

The verdict: Jones is certainly carving himself a specific niche: ambitious and strange intellectual thrillers that raise numerous challenging ideas but don’t actually analyze them. “Source Code,” which continually switches between suspenseful and silly, doesn’t have the transporting scenery of “Moon” or a lead performance with as much depth. The movie also has far too many near-endings; this didn’t have to become a love story, and it really didn’t have to throw its own logic out the window while maintaining a tunnel-vision sense of morality. Again, though, Jones makes us wonder, “What kind of world are we living in?” and “What kind of world do we think is possible?”

Did you know? Christina wonders why she hears more from a guy after a break-up, not before. Because he’s just checking to make sure you’re OK?

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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