I finally got around to seeing "Source Code," and I have to say that I have mixed feelings about it. I know it's been well-received by critics and audiences, at least according to RottenTomatoes.com. Duncan Jones' sci-fi thriller romance has earned a very high grade of 90% from critics, making it one of the most successful flims of 2011 so far. Once again, it looks as though I'll be going against popular opinion. *Sigh*
The entire plot of "Source Code" was revealed in the trailers, so for the sake of brevity I'm not going to do my usual detailed walk-through. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is employed by a mysterious branch of the Air Force in some kind of counter-terrorism unit. After a Chicago train is blown up and everyone on board dies, Colter is sent back through the Source Code to the last 8 minutes of passenger Sean Fentress' life. His mission is to find the bomber so as to prevent another imminent attack. Colter is guided by Source Code operator Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and the elusive creator, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright).
The technology behind the Source Code is a bit fuzzy. Rather than call it "time travel," Dr. Rutledge coins the term "time reassignment." Each time Colter goes back onto the train, he enters a parallel reality. Each time, he wakes up to Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). Of course, he builds an emotional connection with her, and hopes to save her from the explosion. Of course, he cannot save her because she's already dead. Colter goes back to the train a total of 7 times, each one unsuccessful in discovering the bomber. Each time he wakes from the Source Code and finds himself in his capsule, he demands that Goodwin explains what is happening. **SPOILER ALERT**
In an unimpressive "twist," it turns out that Colter died in Iraq. A part of his brain is being kept active so that he can work with the Source Code. According to Dr. Rutledge, the brain has a sort of "after glow" following death, which allows the Source Code process to work. So, Colter finds out he's actually dead, and on his 8th and final attempt, requests that Goodwin cut off his life support after he finally finds the bomber. In the final sequences of the film, Goodwin turns off Colter's life support and he dies (for real this time). Some how, Colter manages to permanently(?) inhabit the body of Sean in the 8th parallel reality. We see Colter and Christina walking through the streets of Chicago after safely getting off the train. Oh yeah, and somehow Colter is able to send a text message to Goodwin in another parallel reality in which he tells her that Source Code really works. WTF?!
I always have a problem with movies that break their own rules. Do you know what I mean? How the hell is Colter able to send Goodwin a text across alternate realities? Is 4G really that good? Ugh, that last bit of the movie bothered me, especially since I was very entertained for a while. I understand that Colter is able to exist in a parallel reality even though he's actually dead (sounds like "Donnie Darko," actually) - and that Christina is some how able to do the same. I can go that far. But that damned text message. The theoretical possibility of time reassignment sort of fell apart when that happened. At least, for me.
Overall, "Source Code" was entertaining. I can't believe some critics out there are making comparisons with "Inception" - this movie falls short of being as great or as mind-blowing as "Inception," let me make that very clear. It's more like "The Adjustment Bureau" (whose ending also prevented me from believing it's sci-fi elements). But nonetheless, it's an interesting movie with decent acting and pretty impressive special effects. If it wasn't for the crummy ending, I would give it a higher mark.