Archive for May, 2011

28th May
written by Mad Cow

Rated: PG-13 (for some violence including disturbing images and for language)

Mad Cow’s Rating:

Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain) and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) make this movie viewable and definitely saved it for me. It’s something like Groundhog Day meets 127 Hours mixed with a pinch of Ghost. Billed as science fiction, it’s also a sort of thriller and, thank heaven, doesn’t involve space ships or life on other planets.

The movie was written by Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones, who previously made Moon (2009), which some consider a better picture. I may choose not to see Moon since it takes place on the moon. In case you’re interested, Jones is the son of David Bowie and Angela Bowie.

Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), a soldier on duty in Afghanistan, wakes from sleep to find himself on a Chicago commuter train in someone else’s body. How did he get there and why? He soon finds out when he is transported to some sort of capsule where he speaks to Colleen Vera (Farmiga) a military representative on a screen. I’m trying to avoid spoilers here so I’ll just say that he has to go back to the same 8 minutes on the train again and again as part of a military mission because lives are in danger and he must find a terrorist before he or she can do no more harm.

Colter’s embodiment is friends with a young woman on the train, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), and Colter takes a liking to her. Thus, he wants not only to find a culprit but save everyone, especially Christina. The film would have been much stronger had Christina been less bland or there had been some discernable chemistry between the two.

There is much more human connection between Colter and Colleen, even separated by a screen, but then they have truth in common, or at least what seems like the truth.

The action comes in with Colter going hysterical with rather random aggressive confrontations of several train passengers in his returns to the scene of the crime. Colter is also frantic to make a phone connection with his father and we don’t know why.  Gyllenhaal does a good job of making Colter into a three-dimensional character dealing with a personal internal struggle. Likewise, Farmiga brings a great deal of humanity to the role.

Gyllenhaal’s and Farmiga’s performances along with an interesting scientific puzzle give the film more heft than the otherwise flimsy plot would seem to merit. Jeffrey Wright does an OK job as Colleen’s boss, the military mad scientist Dr. Rutledge, but the character is minor. The suspense around “who did it” is good but the ultimate identity of the guilty party is disappointingly unsurprising.

We’re getting into summer fare, when “not bad” is a pretty good recommendation for a film. But it might be best to see this not-so-bad movie on DVD on the back porch with a beer and homemade popcorn when one is just too tired or relaxed to want to go out. You could do worse.

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