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Monday, April 11, 2011

Source Code (2011) - Action Thriller

Source Code (2011) - SPOILER ALERT!!! Through the magic of quantum mechanics scientists have made it possible for a personality (entity, soul, consciousness) to travel from the current time back in time to the body of another person's last eight minutes of life. Really that is the science fiction of this new film by the director Duncan Jones and writer Ben Ripley. In case you are not as into science fiction as I am, Jones made the wonderful and thoughtful Moon (2009) which asked a lot of good question about the meaning of life and what it means to be human. If you have not seen it you may want to find it. Ripley gets his first big gig in this script that has kicked around Hollywood for many years. What they create is a decent science fiction effort with the usual holes left by the time travel theme. You would be hard pressed to find a film involving time travel that has not been picked apart b y the fandom, it is just the nature of the beast and so with that in mind the rating of this film will only slightly reflect the issues around time travel. As the film begins we see sweeping vista as a commuter train rolls towards Chicago. The music in these opening credits is definitely thriller suspense in mood and as the credits end Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes on the train confused. He is greeted by the lovely Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) is such a familiar way that he is totally freaked out. Colter is a soldier who has been flying sorties over Afghanistan not some commuter on the C train. WTF is going on! When he gets to the bathroom and see another mans face staring back at him in the mirror his mind is blown, but since right at this time the train also is blown, up that is, it does not get to sink in. He comes alert in the cockpit or some such place and is being spoken to by a firm by kindhearted officer Collen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) about his mission. Stevens is part of a secret military program, even though he does not remember volunteering that uses the "source code" and quantum equations to place his consciousness into the body of Sean Fentress (only seen in reflection Frederick De Grandpre) at a time eight minutes before Sean bit the big one in the train explosion. That train explosion happen earlier in the day of this film and the military is asking Stevens to try to figure out who the bomber was. They have information that he will strike again later in the day and wish to head off the second attack. So the good soldier begins his quest and through many "Groundhog Day" cycles attempts to track down the bomber while at the same time seeming to fall for the girl across from him on the train. At first there is a lot of adjustment and he does not yet know why he is looking for the bomber, a necessary plot device for the audience but a serious flaw in the script. If Stevens does not know that the bomber is going to attack again later in the day then he can go through several cycles of picking out suspects. Each time the train blows up and he is reset he has a bit more knowledge of those on the train. Problem with this is the awkward excuse making Goodwin has to make while prepping him for another cycle. If they just tell him that the bomber is going to strike again then he would know the bomber has to be someone who got off the train and can narrow his search.

After leading us through several cycles where he gets it wrong he eventually figures out who the killer is but has some failed attempts in getting the name. Then there is the whole thing that he wants to go back in and save the people in the train. Even though he was told that he really is not effecting the outcome of the events, that they are just shadows of a past that will come to pass anyway and nothing will change that. Still the unfocused and confused Colter wastes valuable time personalizing everyone around him instead of concisely seeking the bomber. Unlike Groundhog Day though he is not there enough cycles to learn the piano and memorize entire movements of everyone in the town. No he finds the bomb and gets the name of the bomber and then his mission is over.

Or is it? He begs Goodwin for one more go at it since nothing actually will change he wants the satisfaction of stopping the train bombing even if it is in this memory world. Against the wishes of her boss Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) she allows the final time. During this time you can guess what happens. Yes that's right he saves the day captures the bad guy and gets the girl. Things are not so smooth back in the office as Goodwin has to physically lock herself in the room with the partial body of Stevens to keep the evil Dr. Rutledge from prematurely rebooting him. We get to see at this point the horrible real life condition of Stevens, pretty much he is a torso and a partially active brain. You can see why fellow soldier Goodwin wants to give Stevens his final wish. Just out of shear respect for the service he has performed. So she guards the room while his eight minutes runs.

Then the film give us the ending where we learn that since Stevens has stopped the bomber and gotten the girl that when the eight minutes are up in the memory world the train does not blow up. His personality is still in the teacher and he can spend the rest of his life with the beautiful Christina. Happily ever after. Except for the wonderfully dirty left overs for us in the audience. Stevens has created a new version of the universe, there is this tripe in Science Fiction writing where we pretend there is basically a new universe created every time a decision is made. An infinite number of universes existing all at once through space time allowing everything to be possible. It is a really horrible theory and an easy out for the science fiction writing like in this film to manipulate for a happy Stevens ending. In this case the consciousness of Steven is now in that universe where he saved the day and got to keep the bod of the teacher and now can start a life with the woman he now is getting to know. In this reality the teacher Sean Fentress is dead, not by being blown to bits but by being displaced by Stevens. I am sure when the glow wears off Stevens is going to see the myriad of problems he now has being in Fentresses body. Then the ending also shows up that the memory world was much more, as we learn not only did Stevens change things on the train, back in what supposedly is the real world he contacts Goodwin and we learn that he actually changed reality for her also. In her day the train never blew up and the entire movie from her perspective never happened. She knows about his body in the the tank and can guess that the program they are running has amazing implications for changing the course of human events. BUT it also means there are two versions of Stevens in this reality, one that is in Fentress's body and the torso in the tank. Just not a very clean ending.

Feelings about this film overall are pretty good. It was a fairly tight action thriller that kept the tension twisted up aenough to entertain. Although there are problems with some of the logic in the movie so be it. That is a common sciencefiction time travel issue and I can let it go. In fact I sort of like that it leaves the reality flawed, if everything was solve I may have been more critical. There are many films besides groundhog day that this takes ideas from, 12 Monkeys, Quantum Leap (the TV show) and Deja Vu to name a few. It is certainly most like the last of this list and even could be seen as remaking that idea.

Rating (6.2) 5.0 and up are recommended In the Zombiegrrlz system I would say rent it.

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