Duncan Jones To Direct Jake Gyllenhaal In Source Code

Set for production in the first quarter of next year is sci-fi thriller Source Code with Duncan Jones (Moon) set to direct and Jake Gyllenhaal in the starring role. This puts Mute and Escape From The Deep to one side, at least for a while but it at definitely seems like a fascinating story and well worth Jones' attentions as well as being in-step with his noted inspirations.

The Source Code script has had some revisions done by Billy Ray but was originally written by Ben Ripley. Having read Ripley's draft, I can give you some information on the film's clever premise.

None of this is spoiler material, I'd argue, as it all comes clear in the first fifteen minutes or so.

In the first scene, a man named Colter – Gyllenhaal's character – wakes up on a train headed through the New Jersey countryside. He has no idea how he got there and nobody he speaks to can offer him any clues, though he is told that, to his surprise, he has taken this train every day for the last three months.

After some interaction with the various characters in his train car, many of whom become more important as the story unfolds (particularly Christina... but I won't say why, and mention her in part to just raise the question of who the female lead might be), Colter heads to the bathroom where, quite surprisingly, he finds a bomb. Unfortunately, just after Colter finds it, a cell-phone detonator is triggered and...

...he's killed. In fact, the entire train explodes. There's a big ball of fire and, for just eight frames of film, some other cryptic goings on that only make sense later. We're now seven or eight minutes in and about to be shocked.

...Colter awakens again, this time in an Isolation Unit where he's being debriefed by a man named Goodwin, perhaps symbolically so. It seems that Captain Colter Stevens has just been living through a virtual simulation of the incident on the train in order to discover who it was that bombed it.

The cellphone maguffin is a smart one because everybody on the train will have one but finding the right one will also identify who the terrorist is. Simple, but sweet.

As the story goes on, there are only two types of scene – those that show Colter's next journey into the same few simulated minutes on the train, and those that take place in the rather austere Isolation Unit in which he's expected to report his findings and some unexpected twists come into play. Pretty soon there's a suggestion that there's more to the simulation than meets the eye and Colter may even be able, somehow, change history and prevent the train from exploding. It's not unike a video game in which he's stuck on the same level, dying over and over, repeated and repeated with a new approach to playing every time.

I was put in mind of Twelve Monkeys and the end of the story definitely has a few echoes of something from Brazil, but aside from the Gilliam resonances, there's perhaps a mild whiff of Tony Scott's Deja Vu too, as well as the House episode House's Head, a certain bit of the UK version of Life on Mars and, I'll say it so nobody else has to, Groundhog Day and Jack Sholder's 12:01. The beginning certainly has a Final Destination vibe too, though the film heads off into completely distinct territory once the train has exploded.

I've just made a fairly original script seem like nothing but a horrendous patchwork. Ooops.

I'd be very interested to read Billy Ray's draft of the screenplay, not least because I'm quite the Bill Ray fan, but I think Ripley's pass actually goes a long way in suggesting a rock solid thriller. According to El Mayimbe of Latino Review, all that Ray has done is a little bit of third act polishing. Perhaps there was room for a few more nips and tucks that El Mayimbe is suggesting, but I agree that Ripley's script is a very exciting read.  And, of course, Jones is a really great pick for director too.

Screen Daily report that Mark Gordon will produce the picture and Summit will release it in the US, Optimum in the UK and a whole slate of other companies have nabbed it for their respective international territories. Source Code has definitely been one of the really hot sales at the AFM this year and to me, it sounds easily like one of the most exciting genre projects set to shoot next year.