Friday, April 8, 2011

Decoding Source Code

In case the title didn't clue you in on the matter, then I'll just come out and say that this entry contains plenty of spoilers on the movie Source Code [2011].

Now, the movie wasn't that complex, and the production crew tied up whatever loose ends rather neatly while leaving little room for multiple endings. But that is only if you take the movie at face value. Maybe that was their intent, and maybe I was just reading too much into it. But if you like the movie, and you like to discuss it further, then you've come to the right place.

So exactly what did we saw?
It's pretty straightforward, really. After finally solving the case of the bombing on the train, Stevens couldn't bear to leave it at that, and begged Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) to give him one last shot at saving the commuter train, even if it would make no difference in real life. The Source Code is now his reality, and he wished to have his conscience clean.

And to give Russell Peters one last gig...
But then something peculiar happened, instead of fading away into non-existence, Stevens now roams in an alternate reality where he now assumes the identity of the history teacher, Sean Fentress, all the while exploring the new possibilties that the Source Code technology is able to provide, with his love interest Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) by his side.

And the movie ended with Captain Goodwin receiving the text message Stevens sent about the potential of the Source Code programme, the very moment she reported for duty before the mission even began. The ending seemed to imply that both of them are about to embark on a beautiful friendship.

What else could have happened?
First of all, I kind of get the impression that the ending was written in such way as to avoid a downer ending. I half-expected the movie to end when they freeze-framed that kiss between Stevens and Christina, and the camera pans to the other passengers on the train laughing to Max Denoff (Russell Peters) doing stand-up comedy.

You see, the whole reason for Stevens going back to the Source Code was simply to clear his conscience about not being able to save the people on the train, and of course, Christina. Ending the movie right after Captain Goodwin turned off his life support would have made the ending very poetic, but also very bleak. Sure, Stevens managed to end his life on a happy note, but for us, knowing that his actions made no difference to the actual people who died on the train would be too sad.

But that is not to say the movie "sold out" by taking the "feelgood" route, the ending that they came up with added an extra dimension (no pun intended) to the movie, providing an alternate reality to the movie universe, and room for us to debate. I made a little something to give a better illustration of how the movie ended;

So you see, Stevens was indeed able to save the passengers on the train. He may not have done it in the reality that we saw in the movie, but when his life support was turned off, another reality got created. As the ending implied, Captain Goodwin discovered the true potential of the Source Code programme via that text message, and they were able to save everybody on that train in that other reality.

It was quite of a mindfuck-fest of a movie, I tell you.


dave said...

But did they show two different bodies that were hooked up to the computer in the end of the movie?

One before and one after she pulled the plug?

Was one sean and one stevens?

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Pretty much.
You see, the reality that we saw where Stevens got his life support turned off was when this other reality was created.

The one we saw at the end of the movie, that was after the tragedy with the train was avoided, and it's almost like none of it happened.

No doubt, I could be wrong. But that was how I saw and interpreted it.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I might be missing something here, but if Stevens becomes Sean (in the new parallel world created after Goodwin turns Stevens' life support off) what has happened to Sean in that parallel world? I imagine that in the parallel world, Stevens was still killed in action two months earlier, so in effect he's come back to life (in the parallel world) in Sean's body. Why isn't Sean in the parallel world too, as himself? Has he effectively been erased by quantum physics (you can't have two particles in the same quantum state) or some crap like that? I know Sean died in the 'real' world, but so did Christina and all the others on the train; so, in this parallel world, he should be there too, surely? The only explanation, as I say, is that Sean gets 'erased' from all parallel universes by being 'occupied' by Stevens. Which is kind of creepy?

On top of all that, the basic premise is weak: replaying memories in a brain (Sean's) by hooking it up to another brain (Stevens') is like playing a video tape - you can't create NEW information, or explore things that Sean wouldn't know. That's a pretty big leap, even for science fiction, though no more so than time machines, I suppose. The bigger flaw is that if Stevens only has half a brain, he wouldn't be all that sharp, in any alternate reality. He might be rather confused, actually, and a bit slow on the uptake...

So, actually, the only logical interpretation of the film (if that's what you want) is that the whole thing is a crazed hallucination in the half-alive brain of a war casualty being kept alive in a special ops facility. He imagines the whole thing, including the 'alternate reality' where he can make up with his dad and be happy...

Mario P

Anonymous said...

The time travel/alternate reality explanation does work, but it also leave a pretty big flaw unanswered, where is Sean Fentress? It would also require that several of Coulter's trips through the source code created alternate realities, such as the one where he did but Christine survived and the one where the train blew up a little later than planned, but Coulter and Christina were both shot.

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Mario P
Yeah, I would say that is what happened. The thing with quantum physics and whatnot. I suppose it's not really your cup of tea, huh?

I would say Stevens "took over" Sean Fentress. And it is possible that there are other alternate realities got created as well, but it's not the story they wanted to tell so we didn't see 'em.

But then again, he managed to return to "base", and his life support wasn't turned off for any other of those times. So it's possible that the Source Code didn't create a new world as a result of that.

Anonymous said...

So is Colter pretty much alive in a different dimensional world, taking on this new body as Sean? And if so, he's able to communicate with the Captain in the real world, or was it more so a final text telling her how complex the program is? All in all, the point from when she received the text message and then on I got completely confused.

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

I believe so, I think the ending is hinting on the endless possibilities of the Source Code programme.

James Jackson said...

Good movie!

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