Source Code (2011)

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an ex-soldier having a really, really bad day. Convinced that he’s just completed a mission in Afghanistan and worried for the fate of his platoon, Stevens is baffled by his new surroundings and increasingly desperate to escape and understand what the flip is going on. Introduced to Capt. Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) via a temperamental video link, Stevens is instructed to determine the location of a bomb and the identity of the terrorist responsible. The bomb having gone off earlier that morning, Stevens is forced to relive the last eight minutes of one of the passengers life over and over until the mission is complete. Preoccupied with his current location, Stevens uses the time on the train to explore the situation in Afghanistan and get to know his avatar’s girlfriend, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan).

Hailed as the best thing since sliced bread on account of director Duncan Jones’ previous success with Bafta Award-winner Moon, Source Code is receiving all sorts of praise allegedly stemming from its intelligence and humanity. One man’s intelligence is another’s contrivance, however, so don’t let the director’s science fiction credentials fool you: Source Code is deeply flawed and utterly ridiculous… spoilers will follow.

While The Matrix and even Inception had some semblance of internal logic, nobody in Source Code seems to have the slightest idea what’s going on. According to the premise, the military has developed a technology which allows an individual to experience the last eight minutes of a persons life, that being the time it takes for the brain to pop its clogs completely – even when it’s been blown to smitheries, apparently. While in Sean Fentress’ memory, Stevens uses each opportunity to explore his surrounding, accessing areas of the train Fentress couldn’t have had access to and therefore couldn’t have any memory of. The plot thickens.

So Jake Gyllenhaal starts putting two and two together, his contacts at HQ aren’t telling him the whole story. Inquiring further, Stevens learns that these aren’t memories after all, but alternate realities in which the train always explodes and always kills the passengers on board, Christina included. Endeavouring to save everyone on board, Stevens tracks down the killer but requests the opportunity to return once more and save the day, allegedly despite the knowledge that these people are long dead. Opting to remain in the reality in which the explosion has been averted, in order to know why you’ll have to go watch the movie for yourself, Stevens apparently usurps his host body and lives happily ever after with the very much alive Christina.

I have two primary issues with this ending. First: the American requirement for a neat “happily ever after” completely robs this movie of any ambiguity, depriving it one last chance to make a lasting impression. Second: this lack of ambiguity only emphasising the lunacy of the ending itself, a different edit could have hid the plot holes in a more daring dénouement. What on Earth happens to Fentress’ own conciousness? The one reality in which he’s not blown into oblivion, his body is hijacked and his girlfriend stolen by a complete stranger.

It didn’t help that I had guessed the culprit on first encounter, before being left to watch the same eight minutes over and over again until it suits the plot. While the performances are accomplished throughout, and the plot jogs along at an semi-exciting pace, the source code distracts relentlessly as the ill-conceived elephant in the room. So there’s an algorithm that can transport your consciousness into an eviscerated corpse? So Fentress was compatible, huh? What exactly does that mean?

Source Code is well cast, well directed piece of science fiction for science fiction’s sake. Choosing to ignore the already ludicrous concept in favour of a bit of acting, however, the result is a convoluted, contrived and ultimately disengaging movie that barely manages a better explanation for its outlandishness than Zack “she’s dancing and it just sort of happens” Snyder managed with Sucker Punch.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Source Code (2011)

  1. Pingback: April 2011 – Pickled for posterity. « popcornaddict

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