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Gyllenhaal Tracks Mad Choo-Choo Bomber; Doctor’s Dilemma: Film

Michelle Monaghan and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Source Code." The film opens April 1. Photographer: Jonathan Wenk/Summit Entertainment via Bloomberg

April 2 (Bloomberg) -- As a train commuter myself, I sympathize with Army Captain Colter Stevens, who keeps reliving a nightmarish rail trip to Chicago in the entertaining sci-fi thriller “Source Code.”

Stevens, played by Jake Gyllenhaal like a private detective on steroids, is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot who served in Afghanistan. Back home, his mission is to stop a bomber who has already blown up a train and threatens to kill millions more Chicagoans with another, bigger explosion. Hey, no pressure, man.

The gimmick is that Stevens is an unwitting hero. Through whiz-bang technology developed by government scientists, he’s transported back in time and put on the train in the form of another man shortly before it explodes.

Now he must find the bomber and prevent him from striking again. Originally given eight minutes, Stevens ends up taking much longer as he’s sent back to the train over and over to experience the final minutes before the inferno. It’s like “Groundhog Day” minus the groundhog.

Directed by Duncan Jones (“Moon”) from Ben Ripley’s screenplay, “Source Code” is suspenseful and cleverly told. Like most sci-fi movies, it occasionally goes over the top. For the most part, however, it avoids the train’s fate and stays on track.

The supporting cast includes Michelle Monaghan as Stevens’s train seatmate, Vera Farmiga as his military liaison and Jeffrey Wright as a scientist who believes the ends justify the means.

“Source Code,” from Summit Entertainment, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***

‘Better World’

Despite its Oscar for best foreign-language film and director Susanne Bier’s superb track record, “In a Better World” is a disappointing drama about a pacifist doctor whose beliefs are tested by a monstrous murderer in Africa and bullies in Denmark.

Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) divides his time between a Sudanese refugee camp, where he treats victims of a one-eyed psychopath who slices open the bellies of pregnant women, and the small Danish town where his estranged wife (Trine Dyrholm) lives with their two young sons.

Their elder boy, 10-year-old Elias (Markus Rygaard), is bullied at school until the new kid in town, Christian (William Johnk Nielsen), comes to his defense. Christian, whose mother recently died of cancer, also hatches a violent plot to retaliate against a local car mechanic who slapped Anton in the face.

When the African killer asks Anton to treat his infected leg, the doctor is forced to decide whether to help a sick man who maims and murders women. Later, Anton also must deal with the bloody aftermath of Christian’s revenge.

The film raises important moral and ethical questions, but does so in a pedantic, stilted way that undermines the power of the story.

“In a Better World,” from Sony Pictures Classics, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. In Danish, Swedish and English. Rating: **1/2

‘Trust’

Former sitcom star David Schwimmer takes on the exceptionally serious subject of online sexual predators in his second feature as director.

“Trust” stars Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as the parents of Annie (Liana Liberato), a 14-year-old girl raped by a man she meets in a Web chat room for volleyball players. It’s a well-intended, well-acted drama that never quite resonates like it should.

Given how many teens practically live in chat rooms, the ignorance of Annie’s parents about what’s happening to her is a little hard to believe.

Some may also question the victim’s intense loyalty to her rapist. However, I can imagine a lonely girl being extremely confused following a twisted sexual encounter with a charismatic man who has professed his love for her.

“Trust,” from Millennium Entertainment, is playing in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio. Rating: **


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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