‘Source Code’: a sore disappointment

By Mike Potts

Colter and Christina exchange a few last words right before the train explodes.

You may have heard of the prospect of the human mind recording the last moments before death, like a VCR or DVR. In Wild, Wild West, the last thing a person sees is burned into their eyes like a photograph. Doctor Who has computers that copy brainwave patterns and make “speaking” with the dead possible. Source Code incorporates a little of both.

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs), an Air Force helicopter pilot, wakes up on a train with no memory of getting there. He is confronted by Christina (Michelle Monaghan, Gone Baby Gone), who speaks to Stevens like she knows him, referring to him as Sean Fentress. This quickly proves too much for Stevens, and as Christina confronts him, the train they are on explodes.

Stevens awakens inside a dark capsule, suspended in the air by harnesses. The capsule is lit by a single monitor, which his contact Goodwin (Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air) uses to communicate with him. She explains that for the past two months Stevens has been participating in a secret government program called “Source Code,” in which the last eight minutes of a person’s life can be re-lived by tapping into the electrical currents within one’s mind. Fentress, she explains, was the only suitable match for Stevens in the pool of victims from that morning’s train explosion. She explains to him that another attack is imminent and they need Stevens to continue entering the “Source Code” until he has discovered the bomber.

Gyllenhaal’s performance is surprisingly good, even bringing the audience near tears in the last 10 minutes. Without giving any more of the plot away, it is a thrilling, twist-filled film meant to keep the audience guessing all throughout. The only problem is it didn’t. About 15 minutes into the movie, the bomber can easily be deduced, the main plot twist can be discovered and the ending is predictable.

Shortly after that, the first predictions about the plot subsequently proved true as well. This is not to say that everyone who sees the film will have the same issue. Its main twist would be obvious to someone like an avid Sci-Fi fan, because it’s a repetitive theme. It’s nothing new, but it’s certainly nothing common either. The main issues arose with the discovery of the bomber’s identity, which was terribly obvious from practically the first scene.

A movie of this genre has every right to break the laws that govern our world, but when a film breaks its own internal logic, you are presented with a plot hole. Source Code is rife with these holes, some more obvious than others. For example, the first rule of the movie is that “Source Code” is not time travel; it is like hitting rewind on a remote. You can neither change the future nor exist beyond the eight-minute time limit. This is seemingly forgotten as Stevens exits the train before it explodes and continues to live beyond the allotted time on several occasions.
While Source Code has its logic issues, the acting is impressive, the story is compelling, and by the end you find yourself really feeling for Stevens in a way you wouldn’t expect. If you can ignore the plot holes and the obvious twists, the movie is very entertaining and definitely worth seeing, especially for fans of films like The Matrix, Inception and Groundhog Day.

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