4/07/2011

Source Code (with spoilers)

Well, I finally caught Source Code, enervated by all the positive reviews, but came away from the cinema feeling let down. Again. There are so many things wrong with the film I almost don't know where to start: I could simply summarise all the issues in this single statement: it makes no sense whatsoever. None of it adds up in any even vaguely rational way whatsoever, which is probably why I spent so much of my time in the cinema staring at the screen in absolute confusion.

I'm going to get spoilery here: Jake Gyllenhaal can travel back in time, into the mind of a dead man, in his last eight minutes of life, so he can figure out who planted the bomb that will blow up the train on which the dead man was/is travelling. No...wait a minute, that's not it: his mind is instead interacting with the residual radiation of a dead man's mind that the Source Code team are somehow able to tap into. The radiation contains, apparently, the dead man's final memories. So it's not time travel after all.

It's true one character states it would take too long to really explain what's going on, and in terms of cinematic shorthand, that's fine: but far, far too many liberties are subsequently taken with logic. If our hero only taps into a dead man's residual memories, why, then, is he tasked with locating a bomb on board a train that was blown up earlier in the day? How could the dead man - a passenger on that train - possibly know himself where that bomb is?  How can our hero possibly experience anything objectively real outside of the dead man's subjective experiences unless the train is, in fact, real, and (presumably) in the past?

But we're explicitly and repeatedly warned Source Code is not time travel. Our hero can't change anything in the past. because what's happening isn't in the past...it's in the present.

Isn't it?

Yeah. I'm still scratching my head over that one. Then it gets more ridiculous. Towards the end, our hero learns his body has been reduced to a ruined sack of meat in a tank wired into Source Code's computers. He's technically dead - or at least, reduced to communicating via a terminal wired directly into a part of his brain that hasn't shut down. He demands 'one last chance' to go back into the train and save the passengers - and particularly the Girl. He does. Don't ask me how, since the train isn't meant to be real. Then, somehow, instead of dying when his life support is subsequently switched off (per his wishes) he finds himself alive and hale and continuing on in the (imaginary?) body he's entered.

There's some guff tossed in about how any changes he makes in the past can have no meaning since they can only create an 'alternate reality', except I once again question how this can come about since he is - I recall - not, in fact, travelling through time, merely interfacing with some fading remnant of someone else's mind.

This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that the only way to enjoy a mainstream Hollywood movie these days is, essentially, to pretend you're far, far more stupid than you actually are. 

And yet, Duncan Jones - the director of Source Code - previously directed a perfectly acceptable, if not stunningly original, feature film called Moon. District 9 was one of the better movies I've seen in the past few years. Darren Aaronofsky's first film, a low-budget black and white effort called Pi, is easily one of my favourite films, and one of the very few I bothered to buy on DVD. Yet I found Black Swan - a bigger-budgeted, more mainstream affair - to be an atrocious mess.

I see now that the problem is with mainstream Hollywood: District 9, Pi, Moon...they're all 'indie' movies, in the sense at least that they're created on a low budget. There's a sameness to bigger-budget Hollywood films that I don't find in those cheaper, more daring productions: originality becomes smothered by studio demands for a standard three-act structure with a heroic denouement in which the hero always, always gets the girl, even if all laws of logic and sanity have to be tossed out the window in order to achieve it.

So it's indie movies and arthouse flicks for me from here on in. I've been bludgeoned by too much big budget stupidity to want to waste my time with it any more.

One last, highly spoilerific observation for those who have seen Source Code: I experienced overwhelming levels of WTF when our 'hero' has, apparently, taken over the brain of some unsuspecting schoolteacher in order to steal his girlfriend. What the hell happened to him, the schoolteacher?

And how long before our hero's new girlfriend figures out there's someone else entirely lurking inside her boyfriend's skull?
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