Monday, April 25, 2011

Source Code

So, I've actually seen a few good movies lately. These would include The Adjustment Bureau, Hanna, and Source Code. I just saw Source Code yesterday.

The two worst things about Source Code are the title and the ending. Other than these two points, it's a very tight and well executed science fiction thriller. If you don't want to know anymore before seeing the move, read no further. A lot of spoilers will follow.

The title is bad because I cannot see how the term Source Code has any bearing at all on the plot or content of the movie. For those who don't know, source code is the term for the computer language code that programmers like me write all day long at work. As it was classically understood, this code would be run through a compiler and turned into executable machine language. Nowadays, the crap can be directly interpreted, as is the case with JavaScript. Us old farts would not necessarily consider a script-code to be true source code, because no final or executable code would be compiled from it. There is no connection between this concept and the movie concept. The movie should have had a better title.

The movie revolves around a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, terminally wounded in battle, whose half-dead remains have been kept on life support in a special program code named the Source Code project. This is a special joint-forces DARPA team assembled to combat terrorism. Using technology not described in this movie, they are able to capture the last moments of memory from the brains of dead victems of a terrorist (or other) incident.

If they can find a neuromap match between a victem and one of their surrogates, they can send the surrogate agents into the last 8 minutes of that individual's life. They can do so repeatedly. The agent can then investigate the circumstances of this individual's death, and hopefully unravel the case.

What we get is a repeated loop of 8 minutes in the spirit of Groundhog Day. The agent is blessed and cursed with an unlimited number of Mulligans to solve the case. This also means he has to experience death repeatedly in the terrorist incident.

Now, there are a hundred problems with this script. How can the agent interact with a fixed memory in a hundred thousand different ways? How can the people in this fixed memory respond to him differently? How can he find things in this environment that the original subject never found? How can find things in this dead man's memory that the man cannot remember because he never experienced them? Nevertheless, the movie presents a scenario entertaining enough to get us to suspend our disbelief. The entertainment factor works. I went along for the ride.

Much more troubling is the alternate reality universe that this agent is able to create by the end of the movie. That was the component of the movie that just about blew it for me. I can see no way that the physics of this could ever work out. This, above all else, was hard to swallow. It's even more troubling in the light of the fact that they had a very touching and tragic ending on tap.

They should have ended it when the agent's last 8 minutes end with a kiss on his beloved. That would have been a very powerful and uncertain ending, just like death itself. Everybody was tearing up, and they had to go and blow it with a more "optimistic" and "happy" ending. Do you wonder why the artists involved made this choice?

Tho the movie was directed by a Gemini (Duncan Jones), Source Code is mostly a fire-people production. Jake Gyllenhal (Sagittarius), Michelle Monaghan (Aries), Vera Farmiga (Leo), and Jeffrey Wright (Sagittarius) are all members of the fire clan. That's probably not a co-inky-dinky. A lot of casting directors use Astrology to construct matchups. Mercurial Duncan may have known better, but he may have let the fire-people--and the studios--talk him into it.

You see, fire people are all about the future. Imagining a future without themselves in it is pretty tough to do. Imagining the end of themselves is particularly unbearable for fire-people.

Of course, it's not easy for any of us, but some of us are more realistic about it. J.R.R. Tolkien once said that all great literature is about the same thing: Death. If they had just ended Source Code with the big kiss, they would have had a very powerful and uncertain ending, just like death itself. This would have left the crowd in tears. That woudl have been a powerful ending folks. That would have been good art. This is why J.R.R. Tolkien said what he said.

Unfortunately, I can see this movie translating into a long-running TV series on the ScyFy network. I can see them sending Colter Stevens into some new investigation week after week. Each time he solves the mystery, he is rewarded with a new happy life in a new world with a new identity. It's a new lease on life every week for one of our wounded warriors.

I don't think this would be such a great thing for a pretty innovative Sci-Fi movie.