Part GROUNDHOG DAY, part 12 MONKEYS, director Duncan Jones has taken on the challenging concept of time travel for his latest science fiction film SOURCE CODE. No concept is more difficult to film than time travel as the idea brings up moral, ethical and scientific questions that oftentimes can’t be answered. Many films that try to address the concept of time/dimension travel find themselves creating too many questions and leaving too many things unanswered. Such is the case with SOURCE CODE, which posed many interesting concepts, but those concepts eventually backfired on the filmmakers when they tried to wrap things up. However, even if the entire concept didn’t work, at least director Duncan Jones took us on a fun trip.
The biggest issue, and one I have a hard time accepting, is the glaring contradiction that occurred in the film. As the ‘source code’ is explained, it’s simply the act of inserting someone’s “mind” into the body of another person’s memory after they die. The theory being that the brain is active for 8 minutes after death and in this case, they want to tap into the 8 minutes of someone that has died in a terrorist bombing in order to try and catch the person responsible. So this idea alone is quite a stretch and I’m sure a physicist or a doctor could make Swiss cheese out of the very notion, but let’s go ahead and accept it. This is Hollywood, after all. But my issue with the theory is that the filmmakers didn’t hold true to their concept. They changed the rules on us with the ending, making the entire premise of the film impossible. And the saddest part is they did it so they could deliver us a nice Hollywood ending with the only thing missing being a smiling kitten and a rainbow.
But watching the events transpire on screen was actually enjoyable. I’m still torn on whether or not Jake Gyllenhaal is a leading man, but he does very well as the unwilling soldier (Colter) forced to carry out the last 8 minutes of another man’s life. The pseudo-love story between Colter and Christina (Michelle Monaghan) was a bit of a stretch, but it gave you something to root for. Much like Bill Murray’s character had to develop as a person to escape GROUNDHOG DAY, Colter has to put the pieces of the puzzle together to catch the terrorist and stop reliving those dreaded 8 minutes. It’s fun watching him figure things out and put the clues together to catch the bad guy and Gyllenhaal delivers his lines well, adding humor where it’s needed and drama where it’s necessary.
You’ll have flashes of 12 MONKEYS as we see Colter in the early stages dealing with his real-time guides, played adequately by Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright, giving him bits of information about who he is and what he’s supposed to be doing. I loved the way Duncan Jones weaved the two mysteries together, one for the audience in which we had to piece things together as to what was really going on and the other for Colter, who had to figure out who the terrorist was. The film did have an air of originality to it and the action played out well and made for a fun film, despite some plot holes and frustrating contradictions.