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Posted on 6/11/11 05:50 PM
Source Code is a regrettably under viewed film by audiences but fantastic sophomore effort nonetheless from Duncan Jones. Jones is one of Hollywood's brightest up and coming directors and I'll be very excited to see what he does next. Source Code is remarkably different in both in feel and tone from his first movie, the much acclaimed micro-budgeted film Moon. Where Moon is atmospheric and takes it's time to get where it is going, Source Code is slick and breakneck in it's pacing, yet never feels rushed. The common thread between the films is that at their heart they are both very much character driven mysteries. They maintain the human element that so many movies seem to lack these days.
One comparison I've heard is that Source Code is this years Inception. True they are both concept films but they are quite different in my opinion. The biggest commonality they share is that they are both very difficult to categorize. There is nothing else quite like either of them, which may in fact be the real reason why they are placed next to one another. Regardless, Source Code is very much deserving of being placed in the same company as Inception. Both are creative and original and more importantly exceptional, all of which Hollywood could use more of. Inception is probably more intellectually and visually stimulating but Source Code compensates by being more emotionally resonant.
It's that last point that is my biggest beef with the film. No not the fact that it was emotionally resonant but because a directorial misstep prevented it from being even more powerful. Near the end of the film [***SPOILER ALERT!***] there is a freeze frame when the bomb on the train goes off and you don't know whether Jake Gyllenhaal's character lives on or whether he and Michelle Monaghan's character can end up together. As I watched the film I literally felt anguish for not knowing but felt the story had reached it's natural conclusion. The film is at it's emotional peak right at that moment and it would be the perfect and most poignant end point. But then the freeze frame moment ends not with credits rolling but with a happy ending that didn't quite feel organic to the story, almost like the studio had forced Jones to tack on a Hollywood ending in order to be more audience friendly. It's a shame. I really hope this is in fact what happened and that a directors cut will come out down the road minus the Hollywood ending.
Regardless, the film as a whole is one of the years best and is a must see.
ps. [***MAJOR SPOILER ALERT***] I would also like to point out that the biggest plot hole I've heard pointed out is in fact I think a misinterpretation of the actual dynamics of the Source Code by viewers. Gyllenhaal's character doesn't live on within the Source Code. Nor does he live on, in my opinion, within the framework of the original time line. He essentially emerges in his new body in an alternate time line. That is the only way it makes sense. He still saves people from any further terrorist bombings in the original time line, but it's not the one he emerges from with Monaghan's character and the train still intact. It is in the past in this alternate time line that Vera Farmiga's character gets the message from Gyllenhaal that the source code works.
I think people get confused when they see Farmiga and think it means he has somehow emerged through the Source code into the original time line (only in the past at the time of the now averted train bombing.) However the ending of the film implies that the Source Code is more than just a way of tapping into the "echo of the past". If you read between the lines and fill in the gaps it seems apparent that the source code in fact allows one person's consciousness to be transplanted into another's body in the past and not merely into an "echo of the past". This is how Gyllenhaal is able to investigate the bombings. His actions in each of his brief jaunts into the past then create alternate time lines, before his consciousness is jolted back to to the present of "our" time line. He breaks this pattern at the end when he severs the connection to our time line and his dying body by having Farmiga pull the plug on his body allowing it to die. His consciousness then remains in the alternate time line in his new body.
Hope this makes sense. The concept of the source code obviously requires us to suspend our disbelief a bit, but the story line itself is pretty sound, just a bit confusing.