Source Code: Not a movie about programming

3 May 2011


A Blue Perspective: Source Code: Not a movie about programming

One of the advantages of having 2 billion people on the Internet is that every so often one of them sends you something for free. In this case, the kind people at Hopscotch sent me a couple of passes to a preview screening of Source Code. (And only briefly mentioned, in a passing, fleeting manner that I might – if the right mood struck me – want to blog about it)

When I sat down in the cinema last week to watch the movie, I was immediately on the back foot when trying to objectively assess it. For the past 6 months I've pretty much compared every movie I've seen to Inception and found them all wanting. It's certainly one of my favourite movies of the last 5 years. The reason it so affected my objectivity in this case is because Source Code has been labelled as "Inception, but better". Now that's pretty much sacrilege in my books, so I naturally wanted it to suck.

Although the two movies have some similar themes – alternate realities, immersion in technology, subjective perceptions – they are quite different films. For me, Inception felt like a brilliant idea that was taken to its furthest extreme, each scene taking you further down the rabbit hole. In Source Code I feel like a brilliant idea has been treated in a shallow manner. It's like Inception was a cult film that had been carefully crafted for mainstream appeal; whereas Source Code felt like a cult film that had been compromised for mainstream appeal.

Other comparisons that sprang to mind as I was watching Source Code included Groundhog Day and Quantum Leap (which got a cheeky nod in the movie via the inclusion of Scott Bakula as a voice actor), and there's definitely elements of Cyberpunk in there – the digital environments of Neuromancer and Snowcrash spring to mind.

Aside from my bias towards Inception, there's also another admission I'll make that will get 50% of you readers offside. It is this: I didn't really like Moon. (The director – Duncan Jones' – previous film) The problem I have with Moon is the same one I have with Source Code, namely that it peaks too early. Key points of the plot are made aware to you halfway through the movie and from there on out it feels like you're just watching a tired story play out to its inevitable conclusion. Great idea. Poor structure.

My final conclusion on this film (based on my own experience and from observing others) is that if you liked Inception you'll probably like this less, and if you didn't like Inception then you'll probably like this more. Either way, it's still worth seeing, but depending on which camp you sit in you might want to save it for the couch.




  1. 1/14

    Mountain/\Ash commented on 3 May 2011 @ 13:10

    I feel like YOU peaked too early. Looking back this was a great blog post, but having the admission that this story came to be influenced by a commercial party so early in the ground setting tainted my reading for the remainder of the post. I feel this footnote could have been used by the author in the closing statements to add a real twist to the review, possibly causing the reader to re-visit the story to take a second read to re-evaluate the previously expressed opinions.

  2. 2/14

    The Man in Blue commented on 3 May 2011 @ 13:26

    Haha, point taken. I didn't want you to reach the end of the article and then have that dirty feeling like you'd just read commercial propaganda.

    Although given that I didn't really like the movie, I suppose it doesn't make difference.

  3. 3/14

    clawsout commented on 3 May 2011 @ 15:19

    I quite enjoyed Inception, but I thought Shutter Island was by far and away the better, more thought provoking film with a similar theme and even starring the same leading man.

    I have to admit I've not yet seen Source Code, but I definitely will, based on the shorts. However, there's one thing that I'm really worried about - why is it exactly and only the last 8 minutes of a person's life that another person can be transferred into?

    They better have a bloody good explanation for that, because that's the point on which the entire rest of the movie seems to balance, and if it's something really dumb like "that's as much RAM as we have installed" or "if you're in any longer you can't come back" or "because you're bladder is weakened whilst you're in the Source Code, and you can't hold it any longer"'s going to be as disappointing as you seemed to find it.

    One other dubious point, why is he constantly going back into the train as the same guy - surely they know who some of the other victims were - if one victim didn't see the bomber, surely the thing to do would be to try (re)living the final 8 minutes of different passengers in other carriages etc. to see if they sat next to or across from the bomber.

  4. 4/14

    graphic designers commented on 3 May 2011 @ 22:12

    Now I thought the post was good; I have not seen source point but did not really enjoy Inception or Shutter Island. I know it is personal preference as many people I know loved them both.

    Is Source Code along the same lines?

  5. 5/14

    piccoli prestiti commented on 7 May 2011 @ 17:29

    Went to see the movie but had a bad surprise: I was sure it was programmed addicted people.

    The movie is good altough.

  6. 6/14

    classifieds commented on 9 May 2011 @ 04:27

    hah, glad i found this review. i wanted to see this movie, and i've also seen inception. i liked inception though, so i guess i will like this less, like you said! thanks

  7. 7/14

    Mamzel commented on 13 May 2011 @ 02:41

    In its own way, Source Code also aspires slightly to the status of comedy, and Colter's increasingly wan and desperate conversations with Goodwin from his mysterious pod reminded me a little of David Niven's radio conversations with Kim Hunter's June in A Matter of Life and Death as he plummets to his certain death, Niven's character exploits his prerogative as a dying man to flirt with this radio operator.

  8. 8/14

    Simon Clement commented on 14 May 2011 @ 16:14

    Like Moon, it doesn't run far or deep enough with a good central premiss. Both movies cop out at the end by adding, what felt like, tacked on happy endings. These felt contrived and detracted from the terrible dilemmas the lead characters in both movies face early on.

  9. 9/14

    Survey Arena commented on 18 May 2011 @ 01:52

    Just watched Source Code. It's a damn good movie (no it's not about programming), sad that it probably won't be in cinemas anymore.

  10. 10/14

    Andrew Wilson commented on 18 May 2011 @ 10:20

    I found Inception to be an ok film. I guess it is hard to wow me now days, especially when I can guess the plot half-way through a film. Not that I didn't enjoy it though. So, it seems to me that I might only enjoy Source Code if I switch off the higher learning parts of my brain, like a yob on a Friday night at the pub. The sub-text of Inception and the visuals were great, but the surface plot a little lacking. So it seems Source code will be nothing more than surface plot with eye candy and little sub-text or meaty essence. So Moet' vs Passion Pop, by the sounds of it.

  11. 11/14

    Skip commented on 18 May 2011 @ 18:22

    Stands back from the keyboard in amazenmet! Thanks!

  12. 12/14

    Isabella commented on 18 May 2011 @ 19:43

    That's not just the best asnwer. It's the bestest answer!

  13. 13/14

    Steve L commented on 19 May 2011 @ 10:38

    Ah, I thought it was pretty good. I liked the overall premise, and I thought the ending was clever.

    My main problem with Inception was that it didn't really matter whether they succeeded or not - the whole thing hinged on a particular business deal going ahead, or not.

    At least in Source Code the future of the American People was at stake......

    There were definite Groundhog Day overtones, though.

  14. 14/14

    Carley commented on 19 May 2011 @ 12:41

    Now we know who the senslibe one is here. Great post!

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