Source Code Movie
The Review

Movie Review and
Thematic and Genre Commentary
by Derrick Warfel


Let's face it, "Source Code" sounds like a great sci-fi premise. Anyone knows if you can tap into the source code in computer firmware or a program's software, you can control the whole enchilada - or can you? And sci-fi is all about our attempts for control by machines or magic in a universe that seems to be spinning out of control. And like Prometheus who supposedly gave fire to man to allow him some modicum of control over his environment and then was punished by the Greek gods, those who seek control in the sci-fi universe usually pay a heavy price for attempting to play with fire reserved only for the gods themselves.

So, that's to say my expectations were high. It seemed like a lot of fun. Basically, Capt. Colter Stevens finds himself waking up next to a pretty traveling companion on a commuter train only to discover it's not really his body that he is inhabiting but really the body of a school teacher who has similar DNA and body structure (which makes the switch possible), and in fact it is not even the teacher's body, but the teacher's memory network in his brain that is fading from life but yet still retains memories from the previous last eight minutes of his life. Steven's goal is to explore the teacher's memories to find the one on the train who is the terrorist. This ten would be the person who caused the train to blow up, thus ending the life of the teacher and the lives of all the commuters on the train. If he can identify the bomber he can then communicate it to military scientists in a lab who communicate with the captain, who is in a drug induced coma, via wires into his brain. It's not really "time travel" but "time reassignment". He not actually going back in time but only in the time organized memories in the teacher's brain.

The logic in "Source Code" breaks down a bit, because he is able to act independently of what the teacher might have done during the last eight minutes of his life and do whatever Stevens feels like doing instead to find the bomber. But it's good fun nonetheless. The possibilities seem endless and yet (and I speak as a writer), they don't seem to be explored very well. Getting in a fight with a few commuters, getting caught by a conductor, borrowing someone's cell phone to make a call, all of these seem mundane. The film ups it's game a bit with moments like the dead/comatose soldier calling and speaking to his father. But overall it seems there are a lot of missed opportunities and clichés.

Without giving the ending away, it can be said that the primary climax of "Source Code" happens a good 15 minutes before the end of the film and seems to occur in a very ordinary fashion. And, just when you are expecting to be surprised be a third act that is introduced by some huge plot twist, the end credits begin to roll on the rather short 93 min. film (inc. end credits). Overall, it still was a fun ride. I didn't ask for my money back, but it was disappointing because the film could have delivered so much more. Perhaps there were budget constraints. After all it is being released in that dead zone between the Oscars and the beginning of the big Easter Vacation releases.

In any case, thematically "Source Code" is very interesting. Because it not only implies that Stevens tapped into the source code of the teacher's brain, but also into the source code of some huge collective unconscious where time travel is possible and past events can be changed to affect the future. I'm not sure I buy this, but it's an interesting premise to explore. There is a line from the play "Our Town" where one of the characters is reciting how a friend addressed an envelope sent to post office, "Jane Crofut, the Crofut Farm, Grover's Corner; Sutton Country; New Hampshire; United States of America; continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth, the Solar System; The Universe; the Mind of God." It's sort of an interesting way to think of life, as if we are all part of some play in the mind of God. Could one possibly tap into the Source Code for this?

Others might refer to some psychics like Edgar Cayce who spoke of getting his cures for diseases when he went into a trance into some huge collective unconscious of all the souls that are living and have ever lived. He certainly came up with some amazing cures that he could have never discovered himself, but where he got that information, aaaahh, that's the question. Some feel there is such a thing as telepathy but perhaps it's not with a collective unconscious but some superior race of beings who are manipulating us. Of course now we're getting into UFO and abduction territory. Or possibly we're venturing into the realm of cross dimensional beings more commonly referred to as evil spirits or in Old English, demons - who influence us and sometimes even communicate with us in ways we do not know. Who knows. I'm not sure that's a source code I'd want to tap into

In any case tapping into some universal source code does seem a very seductive premise for a sci-fi film to explore. What would YOU do with that opportunity? How would it change your life? However, in the film Stevens doesn't seem to pay a price for his playing with the very laws of nature. This was a shortcoming of the film that is usually stock in trade in sci-fi films. For example in "Inception" there was the possibility that a misstep in entering the dream world could lead to the mission team ending out in some perpetual limbo between life and death. There doesn't seem to be any such jeopardy for Stevens or the scientists controlling him. The film implies that there is some huge danger we do not know about, but never pays it off.

Hopefully there will be a Source Code 2 that really does exploit more of the rich possibilities of this movie concept.



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