Please Please PLEASE do not read this review unless you have already seen Source Code, do not plan on ever seeing it, or are quite happy to have the end completely ruined before watching.
OK I think I can get on with the review now.
Source Code is proving a dilemma, just minutes after watching it I'm writing this review because I know if I leave it until the morning the feelings it has provoked won't be so acute. In explanation those feelings are annoyance, exasperation, and not a little disappointment. And it was all going so well...
As you should know having seen the film Source Code is a computer/intelligence system that enables access to a persons last eight minutes of memories, however to use these effectively the person taking over these memories have to be a human computer, and to be that they need to be dead or dying themselves. So here we introduce Jake Gyllenhaal's character Captain Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot whose last memories are of serving in Afghanistan, service that is later revealed to have killed him in body but not in mind...if that makes a lick of sense. His brain has been hooked up to the Source Code system and is being used to take the place of a History Teacher called Sean Fentress whose companion on a doomed train heading to Chicago is Michelle Monaghan, a fellow teacher called Christina.
The film begins well, Jake is just as confused as the rest of us as to what Source Code is, how he can be on a train that is exploding one minute and back to eight minutes previously as though somebody keeps hitting the reset button. Michelle is charming as she tries to cope with her companions erratic behaviour as he punches strangers, searches their bags, and effectively becomes a racial profiler at one point chasing an Arabic looking man convinced he is the perpetrator of the soon to be exploding bomb. Michelle Monaghan is a very good actress, always sidelined she never fails to shine, see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for perhaps her best performance to date. In fact just watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as it's a great movie.
What I loved was that the action did not overwhelm the plot, yes the train exploded several times but this was almost skipped over as though it was inconsequential to the bigger picture, and to the people in charge of the Source Code experiment it was. These hundreds of people did not matter, it was the later bomb they were trying to prevent. I have to be honest I did see the guy coming off the train who 'accidentally' leaves his wallet behind and think 'bet its him', but this did not matter as it was Jake you focused on, feeling so bad when he messed up and looked like a thug or a racist to Christina.
I also enjoyed the relationship that slowly developed between Goodwin, played by Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air), who you see on a computer monitor talking to Jake but never see what she sees until almost the very end when it is revealed she is reading what his thoughts are projecting like a paraplegic who cannot communicate except through specialised computer programmes.
Jake realising he is dead after researching himself while in the Source Code program is a turning point for the character and for the movie, there is no longer any hope that he and Christina could be together or that she can be saved, and so Jake just wants to work to find the bomber and create the best ending he can for the train. The idea of the terrorist being a local who is disenchanted with life and wanting to incite revolution is horribly close to reality at this present time; Norway now faces the prosecution of their own home grown terrorist who tried to achieve exactly the same ideas as this character had through a bomb and mass murder. Unfortunately real life has made this film that much more poignant and relevant despite its fantastical premise.
Now the fantastical element is intriguing, already we have seen programmes play with the idea that our final thoughts are not severed simply by the stopping of our hearts. Doctor Who was quite effective in its fourth series of the tenth doctor (David Tennant) in the use of a computer chip that records the brain waves in a space suit and so even after death the memory persists for a short time. I was told when I was young when stating that decapitation would be the best way to depart this mortal coil that our bodies are not dissimilar to chickens and even after severance the synapses keep sparking. So as you can tell I was not immediately poo-pooing the idea that a persons memory could linger, thus this film made some sort of sense despite its blown up proportions. This is probably thanks to the direction of Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie and director of Moon), it is understated and concentrates heavily on the relationships forming between our hero and the two women on opposite sides of reality.
I came to the point where Jake had saved the day; the authorities had caught the terrorist about to blow up Chicago in real time and our hero is back in the Source Code courtesy of Goodwin, feeling content and happily surprised that this Hollywood blockbuster was going to end on a relatively realistic note, no cheesy Happy Endings thank god! And then disaster, Goodwin does not turn Jake's life support off from his mangled body (well, torso and head), he continues on after creating such a happy end for the train passengers in the body of this History teacher. It is so sad that they did not have the guts to end this film like it should have, you cannot put through the entire film the message that this is NOT time-travel, we are not saving these hundred people we are preventing disaster for thousands. It was a gutsy non Hollywood message, but then Jake survives confusingly in the body of this teacher, who is now going to have his own fairytale ending with Monaghan? It begs many questions, one of which is what happened to the original occupier of this body? another is does this new reality run parallel to the original we have just spent eighty minutes watching, or has it taken over?
Lets just say I'm frustrated by the ending, as I am with many American creations, because they don't have the balls to create tragedy. Yes it would have been so sad that this train of people died, that Jake and Michelle never got the chance to know each other in reality, but it also would have been an exceptional showcase of human nature. Goodwin showed she would not let another human being suffer and not be allowed the basic right to die when our bodies have failed us, Christina showed compassion and understanding in the most extreme circumstances toward a friend, and Sean/Colter showed determination in the face of adversity, for even though he believed they were all dead anyway he wanted this train of disgruntled passengers to be allowed a happy end.
That's how Source Code should have ended.
I hope you did enjoy the film, and of course if you have a different take or understanding of the ending feel free to post your comments, but I am so disappointed by the end that the four stars that were glittering in my minds eye through ninety percent of this film have dropped by a star, because despite the ending the rest of the film is well cast, directed with assurance, and really rather good.