Overview: A soldier takes on another life in order to stop a bomb from destroying Chicago. PG 13; 93 minutes; Vendome Pictures.
Reality: This film takes on an investigation of the flawed human perception of reality, a common but complex subject, but it succeeds by marrying the investigation to its main character Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). Colter is a man in a perpetual state of confusion. Gyllenhaal exhibits the confused, frantic emotion expertly and in large portion. Over the duration of the film, we see Colton transform into a whole new person, physically and mentally. In each repetitive sequence, his character challenges his understanding not just of the events under investigation, but of life and what is valuable.
From quantum physics to something like borrowed time travel, there is enough here to confuse the hell out of us. But what truly makes this movie worth its grade is Director Duncan Jones’ ability to control the theoretical science into traceable lines of philosophical thought. Our cognitive attention wavers but never derails. Equally impressive is Jones’ patient unconcern for answering the riddles his movie presents. Even after the last scene, it is hard to judge if any of what Colton is doing/has done is real. Does the film’s conclusion place him in the afterlife? Has he he taken over another identity in an alternate universe? Has this veered into the imagination on some higher level of consciousness and if so, how much of what we just witnessed takes place on that imaginative plane?
Seasoned: Vera Farmiga, as Colleen Goodwin, works as a satisfying investigative sidekick and moral compass in the last act. Jones, Gyllenhaal, and Writer Ben Ripley combine to give life to a script of pure anxiety. On just his second film, Jones exhibits the gifts of a seasoned veteran. Jones continues to display much of the standout skill he exhibited in his debut film, Moon . Both movies use quietly stylistic camera work to depict a man without memory trying to make sense of his identity and situation. Incidentally, Jones also leaves a tiny signature mark in both films: Colton’s cell phone ringer was used in Moon as Sam Bell’s alarm.
Overall: The strong performances by Gyllenhaal and Farmiga are backed by a thrilling story, a story that, at some points, veers toward confusing, but Jones’ commitment to detail and control keeps the train on the tracks. I can’t help but be very excited for what he has to offer in the future.