“What would you do if you knew you had less than one minute to live?”
Dir. Duncan Jones
Runtime: 93 minutes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright
After doing time-travel, paradoxical, wormhole, sciencey stuff in “Donna Darko” (2001), Jake Gyllenhaal has grown up to do more adulty science stuff in “Source Code” – but what is the “Source Code”? Is the “Source Code” a digital world within a world like “The Matrix” (1999)? Well, kind of. Is the “Source Code” a time-travel, paradoxical, story like “The Terminator”? Again, kind of. Are there wormholes in “Source Code” like there are in “Donnie Darko”? Yes again. So, what the heck is the “Source Code” then – and how many times can I say “Source Code” in my introduction. The answer to one of those questions is 7, for the rest of the answers keep reading….
Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) wakes up in somebody else’s body, on a train, talking to Christina (Michelle Monaghan). He lives this weird existence for 8 minutes before a bomb goes off on the train killing everyone. He instantly wakes up again in a large metal lined room with the voice of Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) talking to him. He slowly comes to terms with his environment and learns that he’s actually dead (bummer), but he is able to have his consciousness transferred into another person thanks to computer generated program loop called source code. He is therefore able to live the same moment over and over again, in attempt to find clues about the bomb and stop it – but he only has 8 minutes, and he is a passenger that can’t change the outcome.
The machine, and the concept of the source code are the work of Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). Despite Colter feeling part of the constructed reality, he is a passenger in, Dr Rutledge is the harsh voice of reality that keeps reaffirming that that events on the train have already happened and can’t be altered, and that Colter isn’t really there or alive.
Despite what Rutledge says though, Colter believes differently and starts to challenge what he is experiencing and what he has been told. But with the same 8 minutes constantly reoccurring, the best Colter can wish for is death – if only he can convince Goodwin to turn the machine off.
The kind of sciencey stuff you’ll encounter in this film is quantum physics, time-travel/wormhole paradoxes, alternative realities, a bit of psychology, and computer science/technology. The film reminded me a little of the TV series “Quantum Leap” (1989 – 1993), or the films “Groundhog Day” (1993), “12 Monkeys” (1995) and possibly “Inception” (2010) too. The film was paced well and kept me entertained throughout.
While there are some science things about the film it never goes to far to alienate people which makes it an easy film to approach. The four main actors who carry the film (Gyllenhaal, Farmiga, Wright, and Monaghan) are all engaging and did enough to keep me interested and invested in their characters.
For those people in the audience who like to overthink things – which I am guilty of, I did have some issues (STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS)…
- The box room that Colter is in and pulling apart when he isn’t on the train was not really explained. It looked like the capsule from “Inner Space” (1987) but just dirtier. I assumed it was some metaphorical construct that his brain thought it was in.
- Talking to webcam was a let-down twist and only really served as an audience shock tactic. It takes a lot for binary and digital to be translatable and the webcam made it all look like you could use any old computer parts and weld them together and it would all be OK.
- In terms of paradoxes this touches on both a causal loop and grandfather paradox – so there are issues with the start of the film if the end of the film is what the characters are left with.
“Source Code is not time travel. Rather, Source Code is time re-assignment. It gives us access to a parallel reality.“Dr Rutledge
- There is a claim that the source code is making lots of alternative realities based on 8 minutes of dead persons memory. This would be a static point in time which is fixed, so how can it be interacted with. This just gets tossed into conversation like it’s an everyday occurrence when in reality there are massive implications from littering space time.
- The source code itself is never really explained. If the guy on the train died, how is Colter’s consciousness put into it? Additionally, if it’s just a transferal of consciousness how would Colter escape his own vessel – in fact, how did Colter’s dead body survive long enough to be shipped from Afghanistan to America without it going brain-dead during death?
- How many times does Colter have to live the same 8 minutes to as vested into Christina, a woman he has never known, but by the end of the film somebody he is determined to save and spent the rest of his life with.
(… YOU CAN CARRY ON READING FROM HERE IF YOU STOPPED FOR THE SPOILERS)
If you don’t ask too many questions and over analyse films then this is a decent sci-fi film which makes a superhero out of a dead soldier. There are no capes here, just the transferal of consciousness and the will to do the right thing – save the day, stop the bomber, and get the girl. The film looks good and has some nice production values. It’s a high-tech, sciencey, “whodunnit” murder mystery, action film, that doesn’t alienate people who came for the fun of a film rather than a science lesson. I can’t see it being a classic for years to come, but it is a decent film and kept me entertained.