Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Time past, time present, time future


If I tell you a story about a dead man who tries to save Chicago from a nuclear holocaust, that he has only eight minutes to do so by invading the body of another dead man, a passenger on a train, that he has to repeat the same eight minutes time after time until he finds out who the bomber, the snake on a train, is before the whole thing blows up, except that time is not limitless, that there is a deadline in the living world which has to be worked against, you will conclude that I’m either crazy or that I’ve seen Source Code! We are not talking suspension of disbelief here; we are sending disbelief on a very long vacation. :-)

Yes, the plot’s ridiculous and the ending unbelievable but, my goodness, this movie works, an exciting, well-crafted, well-paced, well-directed and well-acted sci-fi thriller. It was prepared to dislike it in the way that I disliked Inception, another dream within a dream, but I was quickly won over, in large part to begin with by the superlative Jake Gyllenhall as Captain Colter Stevens, the man who unexpectedly finds himself on a Chicago-bound train, dead but not dead, living but not living. He has a sort of quizzical, bewildered quality, conveyed by expression as much by word, which carries one along to share in his confusion. Casting is so important here. A wrong move, a wrong actor, say Nicholas Cage, would only have heightened the absurdity of the plot.

Source Code was directed by Duncan Jones, who managed to escape his own alternate reality as Zowie Bowie, the son of the camp old pop queen David Bowie. I’m strongly tempted to avoid mention of Groundhog Day for the reason that just about every other review I have read has mentioned it. But that’s just the thing – this is a version of that time-loop movie, a scene played again and again until the right outcome is achieved. Inception, Groundhog Day and even The Matrix, they are all there, except that Source Code manages to absorb their influence while creating something divertingly original.

Don’t ask me to explain what the actual source code is because I can’t. I’ll leave that to Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), the mad scientist and even madder bureaucrat who heads the team that guides Captain Stevens on his mission; you will perhaps make better sense of his ramblings than I could, not being particularly sympathetic to scientific mumbo-jumbo…or bogus metaphysics!

The mission begins suddenly and dramatically, with Stevens coming to consciousness opposite a woman on a train, Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who clearly knows him though he hasn’t a clue about her. That’s the start of his first relationship. His second in the real world, the living present as opposed to the dead past, is with Captain Colleen Godwin (Vera Farmiga), his mission controller, with whom he interacts through a computer screen, himself being confined in his non-train moments to a Major Tom Tin Can (Bowie!)

Both of these interactions actually work very well, that with Farmiga, who manages professionalism and compassion with equal ease, in some ways even more effective than that with Monaghan, who supplies the love interest. Yes, one simply can’t get away from that, and the more the peripatetic captain returns to the past, to the dead world, the more his feelings for Christina grow by degrees. He is looking for a bomber; he discovers his bomber and discovers himself, creating in the process a new life beyond death.

This is a movie about paradoxes and metaphysical puzzles, a movie about time, the greatest paradox of all. It’s a movie about alternate realities: the past may not be changed but perhaps it can be diverted to other ends, like a train moving down a siding. In the end Stevens, actually now one Sean Fentress, a history teacher, successfully past those last eight minutes and free from the train, walks with Christina in Chicago’s Millennium Park, there to see a new reality, distorted in a massive stainless steel sculpture of a cloud. This is such stuff as dreams are made on.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.


19 comments:

  1. You can not travel into the past, you can only manipulate your time and come back to earths future.

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  2. That's an interesting perspective, Anthony. Do you go to the movies? I like all sorts. I'm going to see Insidious this week.

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  3. An interesting review of the movie.
    I am going to watch it when they show
    it in Jakarta.

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  4. Excellent post Anastasia, it sounds as though 'Source Code' borders on the terrain of early Samuel R Delany. The theory that passing through the event horizon of a black hole may scramble time has been raised and is fertile grounds for further exploration. We seem to inhabit time lines. William Burroughs raised the idea that randomising communucation patterns may shift our position within those lines. 'The Tempest' may be the first work of science fiction. Then again, we have it said beautifully by TS Eliot.

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  5. I don't go to theaters as much as I used to but rather rent and buy DVDs. DVD is the most popular format here with a upgraded version called Blue Ray gaining in popularity. VHS tapes are all but obsolete, what is the popular format in the UK? The Red box automated sytem rents DVD movies for 1.08 US and Blue ray for 1.50 untill 9:00 pm the next day so you can see a lot of movies for cheap. They have recent titles just after they have run in the theaters, besides you can have bugs jump on you from theater seats as you don't know who sat there last.Back to time travel, It is possible, now if you are traveling to another location you will arrive into their future from the time you start you will have aged some as well depending on your velocity.

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  6. Harry, when you do you must let me know what you think.

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  7. Richard, thank you. I like these intriguing paradoxes.

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  8. Anthony, also DVD and Blue Ray. I belong to a site called LoveFilm.com, a subsidiary of Amazon, which allows me to see a large number of movies free with my package. Others I can rent. As for time I'm going to think about this and perhaps have a spot of fun with metaphysics. :-)

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  9. Learn Divination by Tarot,Scrying,Runes,crystal gazing,candles, or meditation and sheer will. You will find the method that works best for you as they are just keys, triggers and tools, you manifest the energy.

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  10. Also you must be of a very strog will and well grounded if you are to open portals as there are pitfalls as well.

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  11. Nice perspective, I am planning to watch it when it finally shown in my country.

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  12. Nice post. I am going to have to check this movie out. I love these types of movies

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  13. Steve, thanks also. If you like sci-fi you will love this. I also happen to like horror flicks. I saw Insidious today, and though it has not been well-received I rather enjoyed it. I'll add my review after the weekend.

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  14. Hi, ANA. I always enjoy your movie reviews, though I usually wait for 'em to come out on DVD--crowds are not really my thing these days. I was curious as to whether you get any of the US TV shows, in particular Justified, which has become my new favorite (tied with Dexter) following the demise of 24. If you've seen it, I'd be interested in your opinion.

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  15. Bob, thanks. We get a lot of American imports, some of the best stuff, quite frankly, though I don't have the time to watch an awful lot of TV. I haven't heard of Justified, so I can't be sure if that's screened or not. I'll try and catch up with it on one of the free services and let you know what I think.

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  16. ANA, here's the website for the show:

    http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/justified/

    I don't watch a lot of TV either ('cept for the ball games) since it's basically a reality-show dominated wasteland these days. But there's a few worthwhile shows. How they get 'em on the air, I'll never know.

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