Friday, July 22, 2016

All's Well

I think Source Code is a well done sci-fi thriller.  It came out five years ago and still holds up.  Recently I stumbled across a page that argues the ending is disturbing, though people don't notice.  Actually, I've been hearing this complaint since the film came out, and I'd like to take it up.

First, for those who haven't seen Source Code, or have forgotten it, let me relate the plot.  There are twists and turns in this story, so if you don't want to be spoiled, stop here.

It's about Army pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who finds himself on a Chicago commuter train.  A woman on the train, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) seems to know him, though he doesn't know her.  He looks in a mirror and sees he's someone else.  Then the train explodes and everyone dies.

Stevens is now back in a cockpit who-knows-where.  An army captain (Vera Farmiga) communicates with him through a video screen.  Turns out he's on a mission, made possible through some new quantum technology, that sends him into this situation where he can find out who planted the bomb that blew up the train. The incident has already happened, though.  It can't be changed.  But his consciousness can be sent back into the mind of a guy name Sean Fentress--Christina's boyfriend.

Unfortunately, he can only go back for the last eight minutes before to the explosion   He has to keep going back, over and over, to get information and prevent a far more deadly bomb expected to explode in a few hours.

One surprise along the way is we discover Stevens was hurt in Afghanistan, and is in a coma.  He's lost most of his body and is hooked up to life support, kept alive to solve this problem.

After a bunch of tries, he figures out who the bomber is.  He asks to go one more time to save everyone on the train, though the guy in charge of the program insists what's happening isn't real, and the explosion has already happened.

He goes back and stops the bomb, catches the bomber and kisses the girl.  This should be the end, where it all goes black.  Indeed, his body back in the original story is disconnected from life support.  But instead, the timeline continues beyond its endpoint and it looks like he and Christina have a rosy future.  So either he's changed history, or at the very least, there's a new timeline where the bomb didn't explode.

What's disturbing to many people is the fate of Sean Fentress.  What happened to him?  His body's been taken over, and he no longer exists.  Stevens, in effect, murders him.

Also, if these trips back are real, what Stevens (and his controllers) are doing is murdering numerous people over and over.

One more thing--poor Christina in the final timeline is fooled.  She thinks she's got her boyfriend, but it's actually a guy she doesn't even know, no matter what he looks like.

None of this bother me, and it shouldn't bother anyone else.  I'm willing to assume, due to the final scene, that Stevens' trips back to the train aren't just play-acting, but are real timelines that exist in some alternate world.  So what?

Here's what happened to Sean Fentress.  He loved a girl and got blown up with her.  If there were no experiment, that's his lot.  So he's got nothing to complain about if there's an alternate timeline where another guy--in his body--gets his girl.  You can't lose what you never had.

A similar argument goes for all those real people who get blown up several times.  This is extra minutes they're enjoying, that wouldn't have existed otherwise.  And since they don't know the bomb is coming, but suddenly die, all those minutes are a bonus.

Finally, Christina Warren.  She's got a new boyfriend, but doesn't know it.  First, it's not so bad.  Stevens seems like a nice guy.  Second, her other choice is to be blown up--which would you pick?  And who knows, maybe some day Stevens will tell her what happened, though I doubt she'll believe him.

On top of all this, thanks to Stevens' heroism, it's likely tens of thousands of Chicagoans were spared the effect of a dirty bomb.

The people who are disturbed by the ending should stop whining.


Blogger New England Guy said...

We can always whine about time travel. Except in very simple plots where the rules are set and easy to understand, they get really confusing. I actually like alternate history- what would happen if something in the past changed and how would time have rolled out differently, but this jumping back and forth gives me a headache (at least if its just a thriller plot).

This is what worries me about the Bran plot in Game of Thrones- traveling back in time to see what happened is fine (for me) but when it goes into this whole cause and effect thing and muddies up the nature of reality, I give up. I am living with the Hodor thing by assuming time and fate are inexorable and that whatever Bran has done in the past (even traveling there in the future) has already occurred and that "everything is fixed and you can't change it" (as Jesus tells Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar, which I just heard). That's heavy enough.

Maybe I'll see this flick - LAG convinced me you can enjoy it without dwelling on the time travel paradoxes

6:07 AM, July 22, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I don't consider Source Code a time travel movie. It's more a Groundhog Day/Edge Of Tomorrow situation where someone lives the same situation over and over while experimenting with new outcomes. Source Code goes on to ask if these scenarios constitute alternative universes, and answers in a way that leads to triumph for the protagonist.

Occasionally I'll see a claim from a GOT fan that Bran can change the past, but I've yet to see any evidence that he has that power.

8:01 AM, July 22, 2016  

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