Monday, May 21 , 2018, 4:19 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Source Code’ Bends Time, Minds

The premise of sending one man back into the body of another poses fascinating questions

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 Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal). 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, 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 that will kill 2 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, Stevens develops a connection with Warren 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 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 Warren 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.


» 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?

» 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 life you would love to do over?

» The callous attitude of Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) as director of the program is disturbing. But would you have done what Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) did? Why or why not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >