This is the movie about American optimism. Americans can die several deaths for the sake of getting what they want. In an unusual, a bold, & an intriguing move, this latest Hollywood hero is actually a hero. A war hero, a man who fought for his country in Afghanistan. He still looks boyish & diffident. He puts his rank before his name. That’s why they say the army makes men of boys.
He finds himself on a train, surrounded by strangers, destination unknown. The stranger on a train across from him is the beautiful Michelle Monaghan, who might just be Miss America. She thinks she knows him; she seems to trust him; & before the end of the first act, he will fall in love with her. In his place, I would have too.
For now, he tries to figure out what is what. He is erratic & not very perspicacious. Then everything explodes, everyone dies. For the first time. Why do not his military habits take hold of him at once? Why is he scared?
After he dies, this woman-soldier appears, trying to be tough. She falters; her kindness surfaces. She explains that he is part of a simulation. I will not bore you with scientific conceit. Someone set a bomb on that train. It has already happened, but if our soldier could find out who did it, that terrorist could be stopped.
He dies repeatedly. Defeat reinforces itself, for not even men are so confident in the face of adversity. He realizes that he cannot be alive. This is not a desirable dream. Why should he go back? He risked his life for his country often enough already. His father’s sorrow & love persuade him.
The conceit of the story is the repeating eight minutes on that train. The same people go through almost the same events. As with all repetitions, differences are as important as similarities. Our protagonist alone changes.
He embodies the strength of the American Constitution, inasmuch as it is embodied in the American national character. He is the modern executive power, energetic above all. The ingredients which constitute energy in the executive are unity; duration; an adequate provision for its support; & competent powers. The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are a due dependence on the people, secondly a due responsibility… Decision, activity, secrecy, & dispatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man.
Of course, this describes some of the purposes of the Constitution: establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence. In the terms of the Declaration, the ends of political action are safety & happiness. All these fall under safety. The woman describes happiness.
An action movie you should see, even if you are not a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal.