Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rant: Source Code - Frustratingly overrated

This post contains major plot spoilers for Source Code.

Lately I have been catching up on the Slate Spoiler Special podcasts, going through the backlog of episodes and listening to opinions on older films which where either controversial or - at least in my eyes - overrated. Today I listened to their take on Duncan Jones' sophomore effort Source Code.

I distinctly remember seeing this film upon its theatrical release. I had been anticipating it for some time as I was a huge fan of Jones' previous film Moon. On the day it opened I rushed to the cinema with my girlfriend at the time and a group of work colleagues. Upon exiting the film I distinctly remember being the only person in the group who didn't like it. They all seemed completely satisfied with everything the film presented. Hell, one of my friends even claimed it may be one of the best films he had ever seen. I was dumbfounded. Had we seen the same film? Because the Source Code I saw was full of plot holes and huge inconsistencies within its own internal logic.

To make things worse on the train ride home I tried to explain the issues I had with the film to my girlfriend. She loved the film and after I attempted to argue my case things got a little heated and she claimed that I just didn't "get" it as I didn't understand quantum theory and the concept of branching realities (now I don't pretend to be an expert on such matters but I sure as hell have enough of an understanding to "get" the plot of a Hollywood film!). Needless to say that was not at all the problem with the film and she is indeed now my ex-girlfriend.

I found this series of events infuriating, and the myriad of positive reviews the film seemed to receive only exacerbated my frustration. Eventually I chose to forget the film. I moved on and simply refrained from recommending the film to any friends or colleagues. Until today, when I decided to listen to the Spoiler Special for the film. And boy was I pleased to hear them tear the film apart.

The Slate guys had the exact same issues with the film I did. Namely that the internal logic simply does not make sense. Basically for those who are unfamiliar with the film, a bomb destroys a packed train and the authorities are trying to figure out who the bomber is before he destroys a new target. An army Sargent named Colter is then given access to a program named Source Code which allows him to inhabit the body of one of the passengers on the train for a period of eight minutes before the bomb is detonated. Repeatedly Source Code tells its audience that when Colter is on board the train for these eight minutes - in which he must identify the bomber - that it is not time travel. Essentially the logic that the film lays out is that after death the brain is still active for eight minutes, so the military has recovered a passenger that was on board the train and are (somehow) able to give the consciousness of Colter access to that eight minutes of memory in order to try and figure out who the bomber is.

So there is essentially no time travel taking place. All Sgt Colter is doing is repeatedly reliving the last eight minutes of a dead man's memory. Now this alone proves problematic as when Colter is reliving this memory he is inexplicably able to visit places that Sean, the bomb victim, could never have seen. He interacts with other passengers and generally gleans new information that could never have been found in the memory of his "host". This may seem nitpicky, but it just goes to underline the inherent flaws in the reality presented by Source Code.

Then on top of all this, at the film's end, Colter is able to stop the bombing and for some unknown reason exist within Sean's body after the eight minutes has expired. What the fuck?! Suddenly the film completely changes tack and suggests that Colter has indeed traveled back in time and is now existing in a alternate reality where the bombing never happened. Though bizarrely he still inhabits the body of Sean, which begs the question, what happened to poor Sean's consciousness if his body is now being controlled by Colter??

These questions infuriated me. How could Jones, the man responsible for the subtle and intelligent Moon, have left such glaring holes in the logic of this film? It is actually quite incredible how many inconsistencies emerge in Source Code's second half. Frustrating doesn't begin to describe it. Particularly as the beginning of the film holds so much promise. Perhaps I should write it off to studio interference? Or maybe Moon was just a fluke? I guess I'll just have to wait for his next effort before I can make a call. Though in the mean time I might just re-listen to the Spoiler Special podcast. There was something supremely cathartic about finally hearing someone who shares my opinion of the film.

1 comment:

  1. I also was confused as how the movie got so many good reviews, when the movie can't stand by itself.

    About Colter going places and talking to a lot of people Sean couldn't have, the only explanation I can think of is that the program/source code recreates all dead passengers personalities (every brain they scanned), it is not just Sean's memory. But it still leaves a lot of incongruencies.

    This movie was just like... a masturbation.