28 December 2011

Movies: Source Code

Source Code (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0945513/

Sci-Fi Thriller

Army Captain Colter wakes on a train, unsure of where he is. The lady sitting across from him talks to him like he knows her, but calls him by a different name. When he catches a glimpse of himself in the window he freaks out - the face he sees is not the face he remembers as his own. He rushes to the bathroom to find in his pocket identification that matches the face instead of who he thinks he is.
The train explodes and Capt Coulter is now strapped in some sort of harness inside a small capsule. A Capt. Goodwin talks with him via a video link asking him if he found the bomb on the train or the person responsible. He says no, tries to get answers, they tell him little then send him back.
It turns out the train bombing already happened earlier that morning. A technology has been developed to transfer Capt Coulter's mind into the mind of one of the dead passengers, to tap into the last 8 minutes or so of his short-term memory.  Some technobabble is spouted to describe some quantum physics theories and brain stuff to explain how it is possible for them to return him repeatedly into this dead passenger's memories to try to figure out who the train bomber is.
The bomber had informed the authorities the train bomb was just to get their attention and he's going to set off a larger "dirty bomb" somewhere in Chicago, potentially killing millions. The experimental technology run by the military is being used as a last-ditch effort to try to stop this upcoming attack.

First off - I was hesitant to watch the film. Time-travel sci-fi usually leaves me disappointed. But that doesn't mean I hate all time-travel stories, I'm just very wary when it comes to watching them. I figured I'd give this one a shot. It has a good core cast in Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farminga and Jeffrey Wright. Plus it was directed by the guy that directed "Moon" - which was a surprisingly good film that didn't get the exposure it deserves and the 'science' behind its 'science fiction' was used the way science fiction is supposed to be used. I'll take this time to recommend seeing "Moon" if you haven't yet seen it.

Seeing who the cast and director were was enough for me to give it a chance. I didn't even mind that the writer is the guy responsible for "Species 3" and "Species: The Awakening". Actually it's only the writer's 4th film. Perhaps this will get him more work?

If you can't tell, I actually liked the film despite its being a time-travel film. Early on it reminded me in some ways of "Twelve Monkeys" (another should-see film).  It certainly was a lot better than "Next" and "Butterfly Effect", which are actually more fantasy films than sci-fi.  I realize this 'looping until things work out for the best' isn't a new concept. They've done it in "Groundhog Day" (great film), an "X-Files" episode, multiple "Star Trek" franchise episodes, and in plenty other TV series. And yes, plenty of times I gripe about recycled story lines and such. Basically it boils down to I'm more irritated by recycled stories when they don't improve on the concept, or if the "loop" is the main purpose of the episode instead of interesting character exploration. In other words, if the story sucks tossing "time looping" doesn't make it better. And writing a "time looping" story just to write one and slapping some folks in yammering through it doesn't help either.

And that's why this film works for me. Besides covering repeated attempts to figure out who the bomber is, it also doles out bits and pieces about who Capt Colter is and why he's on these missions. It's about the characters, their past and present, their motivations, their desires, the thrill of the mystery. The sci-fi component is just a framework for a thriller and character story to play out.

So yes, better than I anticipated. Entertaining and thrilling enough.

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Spoilery stuff, so don't read if ya don't wanna:
Some viewers were left irritated wanting to know what happens to the mind of the person inside the body that Capt Colter inhabits during his visits. I don't recall if the film states what happens during their technobabble explanation of the process. I'm assuming the scientist and team sending Coulter back don't give that much thought considering it's the final 8 minutes of that dude's life and he's already dead, so there is no permanent harm done.
As for the question in the context of his final visit to the 'host'. Yeah - I can see the complainer's point. But following through utilizing the science the storytellers are positing as the explanation behind what's going on, there are an infinite number of universes so that is just one outcome out of an infinite number of outcomes. And by that logic there exists a universe like this one where that outcome is perfectly acceptable to the complainer's counterpart and they don't raise the philosophical question they now ask. :P

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