Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Jeffery Wright in Duncan Jones' 'Source Code'

Source Code is one of the best reviewed films of 2011. There is a lot of twists, turns and drama in this sci-fi thriller where if it were just that alone, it would be fine. But director Duncan Jones (Moon) and writer Ben Ripley go an extra mile and make a decent drama out of it too. It is a must-see film if you haven’t seen it already.

It’s also a layered, non-linear film of sorts, that is so smart and sharp that it went over the heads of some viewers, as the film underperformed at the box-office. Some wonder if Jake Gylenhaal is leading actor material, since most of the films he’s been in tanked. I’m not one of those who buy into that, because I have yet to dislike his work in the films he has done since Donnie Darko. In fact, I think it’s a shame that the masses avoided ‘Moonlight Mile’ many years ago, and ‘Jarhead’ also deserved a better fate as well, and not because my fellow high school alum Ammar played the Iraqi tower guard either.

But I think folks avoided ‘Source Code’ due to early bird viewings in regards to the film’s last five minutes.

Beware all ye who read further! This discusses the ENDING of the film and SPOILERAGE is afoot!

About the ending. If it was me personally I would have chopped it right at the freeze frame moment as Goodwin decides not to pull the plug, but to reboot him and erase the memory. This way, in Steven’s mind, he did save the train and stop the bomber. He’s seen and expierienced death countless times (even the first time around, noticing the character’s “war condition” which may also play in mental truama) More importantly, he “talked” to his father for the last time. (Note: I found out this this was a bit of an Easter egg, as his father was voiced by Scott Bakula. That was a nice touch!) That’s not a real Hollywood ending, but since his mission was to identify the bad guy, and said bad guy was “caught” he still saved countless lives. If the film ended right there, it would be outstanding.

I didn’t outright hate the ending we are given, with one exception.  Because of the ending, the film blinks and becomes less than perfect. The insert shots of Chicago landmarks from earlier I feel are afterthoughts in an editing room to cover some butts. It doesn’t work for me, and I think it violates the story. Here’s why:

Steven has been in the machine for at least two months. When the train bombing happened, The Source Code project was put into effect.  Steven could only go in for eight minutes. When Stevens saves the passengers at the end, and the time unfreezes after eight minutes,it should be Sean Fentress – who we seen in the mirror and on the driver’s license. Instead we see Stevens.  While the message was sent BEFORE the eight minutes were up, it is quite alright for Goodwin to get the message in the changed reality. But the last bit of the message “is Source Code works and for her to tell him the truth when the next ‘mission’ happens.” is incorrect, given the premise of the movie and the ending itself by itself.

And that’s what’s bugging people. It’s implied that his conciousness is still in Fentress. Fentress should – should have his body back. It would have been neat if Fentress has “memories” of Stevens, and, I think, playing by the rulebook. THEN have the flashes of landmarks, meaning that those are Fentress’ memories, Not his.

So…when Stevens goes on another mission, his conciousness is transported into another person, right? Wrong! Because he’s in Fentress! The only other wild possibility is that “Fentress” is in Stevens body, but that’s not what Stevens says. In addition, Fentress’ spirit cannot be dead since he /Stevens/ saved the train. Hence, Fentress didn’t die.

But…there was that mention of being an alternate timeline, as flimsy as it is (in which case, Rutledge was also correct) and since in the “real” timeline, Rutledge stopped Goodwin from pulling the plug…

Either the ending is one big lie (the last “happy” memory of Stevens before his memory is stricken) or Ben Ripley and Duncan Jones bungled.

The filmmakers suggest that the ending is a new reality, and that everytime Stevens was sent back, a new one is created. But those alternate universes only had a span of eight minutes; the result is unavoidable. It can also be said that Stevens’ time span in “the real world” (his mind capsule) is only seconds from the time he comes back. Eight minutes are in the past, not the future. But there’s another problem with that phone call. It’s made that morning as Stevens has saved the train. Which can’t really happen, since he wasn’t sent back after he saved it
I would have been fine with it if it wasn’t for the line of ‘tell me the truth’. That one line, and the fact that Stevens is still in Fentress (did he just steal Fentress’ girl in one morning!?) does cast a big cloud over the film. Still, I can’t entirely condemn it. It gets people talking in debates. That is big accomplishment in today’s film-land.

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