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Film, Action and adventure
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Based on a hardcore sci-fi premise, but staged with a Hitchcockian lightness that injects romance and humour into a potentially bleak terrorist bomb scenario, this second film from the director of ‘Moon’ is an emotionally engaging time-travel puzzle piece. It may not be ‘Un film de Duncan Jones’, but it is an efficient, entertaining thriller that features several striking signature sequences and some smart conceptual ideas.

Jake Gyllenhaal is edgy and engaging as confused Blackhawk helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens, who wakes up on a Chicago commuter train with no clue how he got there or what his ‘mission’ is. The attractive woman seated opposite, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), seems to think he’s a school teacher called Sean, and the face reflected in the train window is not his. Suddenly, an explosion rips through the train, and Colter finds himself in what may be the cockpit of his crashed chopper. Via a video screen, uniformed military ‘minder’ Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) explains that Colter is part of an experimental project, which allows access to a parallel reality for eight minutes at a time. And he has to keep going back in – not to stop the explosion, which has already happened, but to identify the terrorist on the train, who has also planted a ‘dirty bomb’ in the city.

Rather than get bogged down in the scientific explanations, Ben Ripley’s intricate script and Jones’s brisk direction invite us to climb aboard and enjoy the ride. But if you want to dig deeper, there is some serious stuff about a guy lost in fragments of time, groping towards a sense of his own identity. There’s also an involving emotional undertow, thanks to Colter’s fragmented romance with Monaghan’s loveable teacher-next-door and the burgeoning human connection between Farmiga’s delicately nuanced ‘minder’ and Gyllenhaal’s angry yet vulnerable guinea pig.

By: Nigel Floyd

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Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday April 1 2011
Duration: 93 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal
Michelle Monaghan
Vera Farmiga