What if you blended the zen-repetition theme of Groundhog Day with a formula thriller about terrorism, high-tech surveillance, surreal software (“a computer program that enables you to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life”) and the like? This seems to be the essence of Duncan JonesSource Code. The trailer, however, is telling us that the film has problems.

One, I explained last summer that guys bolting upright all anxious and bug-eyed and going “whuh!” is a cliche that has to be stopped, and here’s Jake Gyllenhaal doing more or less the same thing (on top of Daniel Craig waking up with a jolt in that just-released Cowboys & Aliens trailer).

Two, the CG for the train explosion is atrociously fake-looking. Yes, I realize that the CG will be refined as the release date approaches, and that this only represents how the CG looked a month or two ago. But those Roadrunner vs. Coyote cartoon flames still take you right of it.

Three, Gyllenhaal is giving it hell but you can see right off the top that Michelle Monaghan doesn’t have that much of a part, and that she’s just punching the clock and collecting her check. And it also seems that Vera Farmiga and Geoffrey Wright are on total auto-pilot.

Four, Gyllenhaal is wearing one of those dreaded two-week bristle beards.

And five, as far as I’m concerned the directing hand of Duncan Jones (Moon) is not a comfort factor. I was mostly bored by Moon, certainly by the second half. What, I’m supposed to hop up and down for David Bowie‘s 29 year-old kid because he got a good performance out of Sam Rockwell?

This looks very rote, very big-studio factory. But it also contains little tiny echoes of Inception here and there, and if the idea of being able to repeat an experience over and over is used in a semi-thoughtful Groundhog-y way, then Source Code might have a chance. An IMDB guy who claims to have read the script says it’s “very, very in the vein of 12 Monkeys with a touch of Quantum Leap.” I have a copy of Ben Ripley‘s original ’07 script; Billy Ray did a rewrite, I’m told.

All I know is that right now this looks like soulless high-concept crap, pushed along by raptors in expensive suits.