3 Stars – Thought Provoking
Director Duncan Jones is not only the son of David Bowie but was also a doctoral student in philosophy. That combination of entertainer and scholar comes together in fascinating ways for Jones’ sophisticated film: “Source Code.”
Playing with philosophical, neurological and spiritual ideas, the design of this science fiction film pushes the limits of each. Like many such films, the science it suggests may one day prove to be true, but the spiritual questions are left wholly unanswered and virtually unexplored.
Written by Ben Ripley (Species: The Awakening), the central character in our study is Cpt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). Cpt. Stevens has become an unwitting member of a government research team in which they have kept him alive only to insert him into the last eight minutes of other people’s lives. Although the science is sketchy the knowledge obtained at such moments would be invaluable.
In this instance Cpt. Stevens is being sent back into the body of a man on a train in which someone planted a bomb. His mission is to discover who that person is, because he not only killed everyone on the train but has threatened to detonate a “dirty bomb” in Chicago which will kill two million people.
A romantic complication of his mission is that the body into which the captain is inserted has an admirer, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). In the sequence of attempts to discover the identity of the bomber, Cpt. Stevens develops a connection with Christina that blossoms throughout the process.
We won’t reveal any more since the story is as much a mystery as a science fiction film, but the obvious spiritual questions are more difficult to answer than are the scientific ones. That’s not to say the scientific ones are answered, they are not, and the film requires a high level of cinematic fantasy. But the spiritual question is inherent not only in the insertion of one man into another man’s body, but in the final solution the film suggests.
The neurological relationship between the brain and the mind raised by the film is difficult to answer. We know that near-death experiences that occur when the brain is dead effect change brain functioning – but can the mind of another person enter a brain/body and change the person? And if this is possible, then who is that person?
Theologians call this “mind” the “soul.” And if the soul of one person is inserted into the brain and body of another, then that raises the question of where the other man’s mind/soul went? Was it simply suppressed and remains involved, or is the project transmigrating souls – removing one man’s soul/mind to insert another? And if so by what scientific apparatus would that be possible? And if Michelle loved the “man” who was in the body before, then who is it she loves now?
Though difficult to discuss before viewing “Source Code,” these and many other questions are on our “minds” when the viewing is over. The questions are fascinating and help us form an understanding of the integrity of a human being: body, mind and soul. These questions may come from a director with doctoral level philosophical training, but they are questions all of us should be asking.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. Do you believe it is moral to keep a man’s brain alive for scientific purposes – even if a “military court” ruled it legal? Why do you answer as you do?
2. The opportunity to live the last eight minutes over and over allows a person to make changes that greatly enhance their life. Are there any eight minute moments in your own life you would love to do over?
3. The callous attitude of Dr. Rutledge (Jeffry Wright) as director of the program is disturbing. But would you have done what Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) did? Why or why not?