By Bob Clark
Midway through John Frankeinheimer’s classic thriller The Manchurian Candidate, Frank Sinatra’s Major Bennett Marco finds himself taking a trip to New York on forced leave, having summarily blundered his way through one job duty after another as he tries to sift through the fog of dreams and memories following his brainwashing at the hands of communist agents. Struck by a sudden, cold-sweaty panic attack while riding the train up from the nation’s capitol, he’s soon joined in the train’s smoking car by a cool and comfortable Janet Leigh, who flatly states that she was one of the Chinese workers who built the railroad. What follows is one of the most casually surreal and utterly unexplained moments of that film, or any other, as Leigh and Sinatra trade a series of exchanges that could be called stream-of-consciousness flirting. Is she one of his hallucinations, or filtered through his perception by them, still haunting his waking mind from the rainswept lobby of the New Jersey hotel he and his men were conditioned to believe they stayed in, while socialist agitators toyed with their minds? Is she an agent in disguise herself, attempting to unlock his scrambled brain with so many non-sequitor verbal triggers? As it stands, the sequence could hardly be more surreal if the car itself were to spontaneously combust and Sinatra were to wake up in his seat and find the train still speeding along its way, as though nothing had happened. One wonders if a little of that potent confusion might’ve had a hand in inspiring the recent release of Source Code, a movie that attempts to plumb the same depths of simulated realities, time travel and parallel universes that have been traded back and forth by modern-day sci-fi storytellers like bowler-hats in so many vaudaville routines. What sets this new one apart might only be the talent behind the scenes, and the pedigree it attempts to live up to from its previous work.