Jake gets deja vu

FILM
SOURCE CODE
Cert: 12A

EVER wondered what it would be like to wake up in someone else’s body and live the last eight minutes of their life over and over again? Probably not, but that’s exactly what happens to Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhal), in this suspenseful action thriller.

The “Source Code” of the title is a new US government programme which, by various futuristic trickery (with an echo of 90s TV series Quantum Leap), allows Stevens to inhabit the body of a passenger on a busy commuter train just before a bomb explodes and kills everyone on board. His task is to find the bomber.

With each eight minute stint on the train, Stevens edges closer to figuring out what’s going on – and finds himself edging closer to the wife of the guy who’s body he’s occupying too (played by Michelle Monaghan). The layers of mystery and suspense mount as Colter begins to understand the dizzying ramifications of the puzzle he’s trying to solve.

British director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) made his name with the 2009 science fiction drama Moon, and Source Code confirms him as a rising talent. The recurring image of the train traveling relentlessly forward towards its doom contrasts cleverly with the film’s regular switches in direction, both between realities and in the plot’s twists. It’s an engrossing narrative technique, creating a disconcerting, jerky momentum.

Source Code loses this thrust in a final act that stalls as it strives for an emotional payoff. Otherwise this is a savvy and clever action thriller that will have you gripped almost to the very end.

Harriet Noble

SUCKER PUNCH
Cert: 12A

ONCE again, what’s assumed in the comics world to be bold, post-modern, progressive and cool ends up on celluloid as limp, chauvinistic and really, really stupid. Actually there’s no celluloid involved here – predictably, this is all about synthetic-as-it-comes, 3D-enhanced CGI, in which dialogue and narrative are merely filling in the gaps between slow-motion explosions and sword-fights.

Nothing wrong, of course, with explosions and sword-fights, except when they feel like the product of daylight-starved saddos showing off their software skills rather than actual attempts to engage and, you know, entertain. What’s worse is that here the self-same dweebs think they’re delivering some post-feminist discourse on female empowerment, rather than dressing up slender young actresses in lingerie, giving them swords, and getting a bit of a sweat on.

Story? Oh well, if we must. Babydoll (Emily Browning) and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) lead a gang of abused, wrongfully-committed, sexy (natch) asylum inmates who escape to a fantasy world to battle serpents, samurais and demons. Or something – who cares? Not the director, Zack Snyder (creator of similarly digitally-reliant 300 and Watchmen), when there’s CGI demons to be getting on with.

Timothy Barber

THEATRE
CAUSE CELEBRE
The Old Vic

THE Rattenbury murder case, in which the young wife of an architect was accused, along with her 18-year-old lover, of battering her husband to death, gripped the country in 1935. Long queues formed around the Old Bailey, where Alma Rattenbury was portrayed as a corrupting seductress who led her toy boy to murder.

The playwright Terrence Rattigan realised at the time that this was great material for a play, but it took him until 1975, when he was dying from cancer, to turn it into one. Initially written as a radio play, it was converted for the stage and performed – to mixed reviews – in 1977, shortly before his death.

Its Old Vic revival follows those of Flare Path, currently at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and last year’s elegantly harrowing After the Dance (directed, as this is, by Thea Sharrock) at the National, as producers look to Rattigan’s lesser-celebrated works to mark his centenary.

Cause Celebre proves to be an interesting play, but it doesn’t rank anywhere near Rattigan’s best. Its made-for-radio origins are given away in its slow, awkward structure and while the liveliest moments are its courtroom scenes, the entertaining but drawn-out jousting of a pair of supercilious silks is really a distraction from Rattigan’s main themes.

These come from his decision to juxtapose the story of Alma and her lover George Wood with the personal tribulations of reluctant juror Edith Davenport (Niamh Cusack). The heartbreaking collapse of Edith’s family relationships, and the push-and-pull tension between her wholesome values and more life-affirming pleasures of the flesh, had salient resonances for Rattigan personally as well as with Alma’s trial. This all would have made for a fine play in itself, but the integration with the court drama is heavy-handed.

The show’s saving grace is Anne Marie Duff’s graceful, complex and highly compassionate portrayal of Alma, and Sharrock directs a fluid production. The fact that this ends up being a sometimes turgid evening is really down to Rattigan, though a dour, ill-lit set hardly helps.

Timothy Barber