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10/03/2011

Source Code reviewed: It's Quantum Mechanics, Stupid!

Wow this is a first for me! Reviewing a movie which - in this part of the world - has not even been released on DVDs and Blu-Rays yet. Thank you, amazon.co.uk!

Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal, whom my husband once shrugged off as just being that guy from Brokeback Mountain - in Jake's presence! - which is kind of a funny story, because hubby himself felt strangely responsible afterwards, imagining Jake having a major life and career crisis because of his remark.

Back to topic, the other players are Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, some other guy with a really strange accent, but most importantly a programme called Source Code, which is basically a device to utilize an alternate reality mechanism to access the last 8 minutes of a person killed by a train bomb.

Jake plays helicopter pilot Colter Stevens, who, while being on a mission in Afghanistan, wakes up in a train near Chicago. He soon finds out, that to other persons, including traveling companion Christina (Monaghan) he appears as Sean Fentress, yet he quickly comes to grip with the strangeness of the situation and the reason for him being there. I don't want to reveal too much, let's just say a military unit needs him to identify the train bomber in order to prevent further detonations in Chicago from happening, so he is ordered to check out the other passengers to find the bomb and the person who is responsible for its planting (by the way.. a huge letdown) in 8 minutes time. He is sent back there several times to complete his mission.

Colter Stevens: yet another 8 minutes to find the bomber














So far, so good.

Minor Spoiler alert coming up.

Naturally it doesn't end with Colter identifying the bomber and thereby preventing the other devices from going off. Rule of thumb: there apparently has to be some element of heroic altruism paired up with stupid delusions of grandeur to make a Hollywood storyline work these days. It's predictable, but it's not the thing that ruins the movie.

While the device (Source Code) itself has caused some speculation, even ridicule amongst sci-fi nerds, who find it to be an appalling excuse to make a Groundhog Day-ish movie with the aura and coolness of Matrix and no-it's-not! mystery elements, I think, writer Ben Ripley actually thought about its premise and kept at it as best as he saw fit. The scientific mambo-jambo refers to alternate parallel universes and certain ideas of quantum mechanics, put in a blender with the appeal of time travel and Déjà vu, accurately steering towards the pit holes of all those mentioned things, when nicely mashed up. Still, it wouldn't have mattered, because with a progressive and thought-provoking plot like this, at least I would have been willing to endure a lot of techie-gibberish.

Towards the end of the movie I didn't even know the difference between multiverse, time travel and multi-dimensionality, and I wondered if I ever knew them and then, if the writer knew them, and then, if it mattered, and then, how much I liked Moon, also directed by Duncan Jones! There was much going on, but I still felt engaged, still interested to find out more, until the worst and ultimate thing happened: The end!

Ironically, if it wasn't for the last 8 minutes I would have found Source Code to be a solid sci-fi thriller with some interesting, although shakily executed ideas. Sadly enough, the ending ruins the whole thing. I seriously don't know why they did it like they did, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the idea of the creators to let the hole construct and set of rules crash and burn to get some sort of corny happy ending that pretty much destroys the backbone of their concept. The last few minutes of this movie feel like a foreign body, some sort of alien-ish annex. Completely unnecessary!

And the real ethical kicker: Imagine a programme, being able to create an infinite number of alternate realities, creating that same event (bomb explosions) over and over again by trying to prevent it from happening in the first place! It's a head scratcher!

I have to admit, it is quite possible I just didn't understand the movie's premise. Science fiction is not my strong suit. I can safely say that I registered some interesting technological ideas, and the ambition to create a visionary sci-fi thriller. And even though it's not what I usually do, I'll give the writer/director team points for their ambitious efforts to make a smart movie. They almost succeeded.


Just a little word of advice for a better experience: If you watch the movie on DVD or Blu-Ray stop watching when the scene suddenly freezes up (you will know).

Bomb goes off, but it's not the end!