Source Code: Nobody ever gets to Heaven

SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS… seems to be a running theme this weekend doesn’t it?


My previous film critique corner of Source Code was whether or not it would be a sci-fi thriller or an action movie. The difference between heavy ideas or heavy action, neither of which happened, Source Code is a film exclusively about ideas and the thrills are built around these ideas. What ideas you say? All of them. I think this film is crammed with so many explorations of so many ideas that it’s hard to list them. The afterlife, relationships, love, triumph and tragedy, what makes us human, the line of reality, the line of non-reality, the rules of the world, the ethics of a simulated afterlife, death, the world beyond our own.

I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Duncan Jones here makes a triumphant effort in saying oh so much and delivering oh so much. The script is sharp with Ben Ripley giving these ideas like its been lovingly drip-fed through the action set-pieces. Jake Gyllenhaal takes storm as Captain Colter Stevens, a dead soldier just trying to say goodbye to his Dad. Michelle Monaghan gives a good effort too in the role of Christian, the fiancée of the guy whom Colter becomes. “Becomes” is a good word here, as Source Code revolves around a damn lot of ideas and questions. One good question it asks is Who would you become? If you had the source code, you could become anyone… who then?

I feel that the film excels in pretty much every single aspect. The action delivers, Jones juggles the ideas with the set-pieces beautifully, the cinematography is hypnotizing on the level Limitless recently was. I love, love, love the film and cannot wait to see it again. However (my favourite word there) there’s some sort of power deep within me compelling me to ask myself a question that will likely tear this film apart. Is it as good as Moon? No. It isn’t. Moon was quiet, alone and secluded – it talked to itself – Source Code talks to everyone who wants to listen.

It’s very Hitchcockian in its vibe, odd given the same comparisons with Limitless, whereas Moon was very, very Kubrick. More specifically Kubrick’s Space Odyssey which just so happens to be the greatest film ever made. I love Hitchcock’s work too, but I feel Kubrick touches me beyond the realm of emotion and deep into my very cognitive thinking. The film changed my life, in a few ways I can’t even describe, whereas Hitchcock has fed into my emotion and perspective on the world. It’s still bloody good, it is Hitchcock, but it doesn’t go as far as Kubrick or Team Ico did with my little headbox. It’s a matter of timing really, I saw most of Hitchcock’s work after seeing nearly all of Kubrick’s (I only have Lolita left).

Source Code goes deep into my thinking. I don’t like talking about philosophy given I feel I bad at it, I don’t like talking about my beliefs because those are things I like to keep to myself. For the record, I’m neither Atheist nor religious nor agnostic nor theist. I’m something and I like to think that thinking about the afterlife, love, life and the hell of it all shouldn’t just be all decided at my age. I’ve had films and books argue different things and they’ve all fed into my headbox. Source Code is going in my headbox too, but I have one complaint as to where it’s going.

There’s one question it asks at the very end, beautifully in fact, when Colter is able to phone is father and talk about his death. They never said goodbye, but here in a three minute scene we see a dead man reconciling with his father. Or… another version of his father. Or is the real version of his father the actual “other version”? It’s Philip K. Dick in tone too, the guy being my favourite author of all time, which makes it all the more wonderful when this scene takes place. However, what I want to talk about is just after this gorgeous moment… that ending.

The ending is… it’s not confusing. My mum got confuzzled and I had to explain the entire film in a few sentences, which she understood but she prefers Transformers really. When Colter essentially ‘dies’ he’s still in the source code… is this the afterlife? The remarks at the very end say it’s another world they created, which is a strong idea to explore, but thematically this whole scene doesn’t fit in. The nature of the afterlife isn’t properly boiled down, do we just go live happily ever after? Is that what the film’s telling us? That we are happy when we go?

I don’t know what the film is saying and I’d really like to know exactly what it wants me to think about. I don’t like it when it’s blatantly HEY LOOK AT ME IT’S THE AFTERLIFE THINK ABOUT ME, but when there’s a dead guy living as a dead guy in another parallel universe… I’d like to know whether he’s actually dead or whether you want me to think about the nature of reality. Is this just another layer of reality beyond our concious thinking? Is it all one big neuro-stimulated dreamscape in which a dead guy creates a world for himself in that last second of life? Is it a parallel world he’s fallen into forever?

I love Source Code, I’ll be watching again, it’s the best film I’ve seen this year and I’m still looking forward to what Duncan Jones does next. What I want to know, however, is whether or not I’m a complete idiot. Nobody ever gets to Heaven, or is it nobody ever gets to reality. Are they the same? It fell off at the end for me and I lost grasp of what to think about, because that’s what great works of art and entertainment do, they make you think. I get that. I want to know what you want me to think about; give me a clue and a few hours and I’ll believe in reincarnation.

2 thoughts on “Source Code: Nobody ever gets to Heaven

  1. I love the ending of the movie for precisely the same reasons that it appears to befuddle you. Why wrap it all up in a worldly bow when no one knows how anyone’s life is wrapped up? Is it Heaven? If so–a new life hooked up with Michelle Monaghan–then sign me up for that religion! Is it another life, in a parallel timeline or universe? Are you sure that’s not where we’re headed as well?

    What I’d like to know is why you find the ending of this movie disconcerting, when your favorite movie of all time is “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Fer chrissakes, that movie has the most befuddling ending of all time!!! Maybe Jones didn’t forget all his Kubrick moves after all–though Jones’ touch is infinitely warmer and fuzzier than that of Kubrick, who never featured a movie animal cuter than Basil the Snake. I think the ambiguities of “2001”, of “Source Code”, and of life/death itself, are the ambiguities of the Big Enchilada–the one big beautiful mystery at the end of it all. You love “Source Code”, as I do, because it doesn’t end like a thriller–it ends like a poem.

  2. I have considered multiple possible explanations for the ending, and here’s the only one that seems to fit every requirement:

    Source code seems to generate a new reality, but as was explained early in the movie, it simply combines the (and this is sci-fi, btw) fact that the brain leaves behind those last 8 minutes of conceptual reality, and some other weird science stuff that allows for full exploration of those 8 minutes. After those 8 minutes, the memory and signal from the original Sean, who died on the train from the explosion (let’s call this reality), ceases, because that’s all that Sean had left from his memories.

    Using the 8 minute time-frame, Colter goes into this ‘memory’ and discovers where the bomb is, who planted the bomb on the train, how to disarm the bomb, where the nuclear weapon is held, etc. He learns and memorizes the 8 minutes. In his final venture into the memory of Sean (let’s call this pseudo-reality) , Colter texts a message that contains information describing the events he just did on the train in pseudo-reality to Goodwin, including asking of her to tell Colter “everything will be okay”, just as she did in the beginning of the film to Colter back in reality. He asks her to do this, not to tie up the plot and reveal that pseudo-reality and reality are one and the same, but just so Colter in pseudo-reality might get the chance to eventually enter a pseudo-pseudo-reality or something. Point is, after his 8 minutes are up and time freezes, Colter in reality is dead. His experiences and memory froze on that kiss in pseudo-reality.

    Now dead, the only explanation that at all makes any sense is that (I’m an atheist here, and it makes sense in the context of what he director etc. wants) god gives him what will truly make him happy in a chance to continue living in his pseudo-reality. So that happens. Anybody who claims that he is simply continuing to exist in pseudo-reality, which is somehow extended beyond the 8 minutes is completely disregarding all the rules the film put in place. That would mean that, by his own means completely, Colter has generated new time as Sean in reality might have experienced it in the future. This doesn’t make any sense obviously. The only explanation is that he receives some sort of happiness gift from a god that allows him to continue living, not in the pseudo-reality, but in his ‘heaven’ I guess. (heaven = gift from god in this context).

    So that’s pretty much it.

    Summarizing:

    1. Pseudo-reality is not equal to reality
    2. Colter obtains a ‘heaven’ of sorts at the end. The text message recieved by goodwin is in this heaven.
    3. Colter is NOT somehow in Sean’s body in an alternate parallel universe generated by himself or an extension of sean’s memory (which is only possible by, again, a god of sorts)

    That is all.

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