‘Source Code’: Unresolved Questions Answered

Jake Gyllenhaal and director Duncan Jones explain the sci-fi thriller's trickier moments

If you’re anything like us, you walked out of “Source Code” with a whole lot of questions on your mind. What exactly is this computer code that sends Jake Gyllenhaal back into the past, in another man’s body? What is the true implication of the film’s twisty ending? With these questions still swirling in our heads, we hit up Gyllenhaal and director Duncan Jones for some answers. (Needless to say, major spoilers exist below).

Where Does The Source Code Take Place?
So the Source Code is a government computer program that allows Gyllenhaal’s Captain Colter Stevens to jump into another man’s body — a guy named Sean Fentressis, who died in a terrorist train bombing — to experience the final eight minutes of his life in an attempt to prevent the terrorist from detonating a second bomb. But is what Gyllenhaal experiences just a computer simulation? Or is it actually real?

“The idea is that it’s a simulator, but it actually opens up access to a parallel reality,” Jones explained. “It literally creates new realities where things can happen in very different ways. Every time Colter is sent into the Source Code, they’re creating a new reality where a new terrorist event occurs. So in a sense, every time Colter fails, they actually created a new terrorist event.”

Why’d They Make The Terrorist a Lone Gunman?
As Gyllenhaal searches the train for the bomber, he finds himself engaging in more than a little bit of racial profiling. As it turns out, the true culprit is not some clichéd terrorist ripped from an old “24″ script, but a lone gunman type who wants to bring about a new world order. The upside of such a storytelling choice is it avoids coloring the film with political baggage. The downside is the revelation of the terrorist is a bit of a letdown: He’s just some random dude with a grudge.

According to Jones, though, the choice of the terrorist was another chance for “Source Code” to play with audience expectations. “That was the fun of the script,” he said. “Colter Stevens makes these assumptions based on what you would assume is the obvious choice. There are lots of great red herrings — you think it’s this person, you think it’s that person. And to make it an obvious choice, in a way, would lack the punch of where we go.”

What About the Paradox at the End?
As the plot wraps up, Colter, who we’ve learned is being held at the Source Code facility, ends up not only preventing the second bombing but also the original one on the train. He permanently ends up in Fentressis’ body, and no terrorist event ever comes to pass. That sets up a classic time-travel paradox of which Jones was well aware.

“The idea that Colter Stevens, by going into this parallel reality and stopping the bomb going off, means that he was never sent on a mission in the first place,” the director said. “In that reality, he must still exist at the facility. For sci-fi geeks like myself, that was a paradox I needed to address.”

Jones addressed the issue front and center, having Colter/Fentressis send a message to the facility alerting one employee to the fact that, even though a terrorist event didn’t take place, the Source Code does work. Additionally, Jones introduced the idea that Colter had been fated to end up in Fentressis’ body.

“He’s seeing flashes of this surreal experience that he can’t figure out,” Jones explained. “Over the course of the film, he sees more and more until eventually, he’s coming to recognize this potential future where he’s able to get out of the train and experience a life beyond those eight minutes.”

Will There Be a Sequel?
While the movie hardly qualifies as a blockbuster — it grossed $15 million over its opening weekend — Gyllenhaal sees a lot of room for a sequel.

“I think it’d be fascinating if Sean Fentressis is somebody that [the government] wanted to find,” he said. “Because it opens up a number of stories that are fascinating to me. To me, there really is no ending to this movie — and that’s what’s so cool about it.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Source Code.”

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