Captain Jake
Source Code
Review by Ross Anthony

I quite enjoyed the film, despite the unimpressive poster. Eerily, I’d just been thinking about Groundhog Day, and wondering why there hadn’t been another film echoing that cool concept. Chances aren’t great that you were feeling the same way, but if you were -- see “Source Code.” Same cool concept, different genre.

Jake G. is awesome. Did he get an academy nod for this? He’s tough, confused, forlorn, angry, sad, and even funny.

The script is good, too. I’d have liked the relationship between Captain Jake and Goodwin to have been more richly developed, and I don’t mean romantically. Other than that -- see my spoiling suggestions below after seeing the film. In any event, the film is entertaining, fun, emotive, and smart. It’ll also activate your brain during and after.

* SPOILER ALERT:*
CONTINUE READING ONLY IF YOU’VE SEEN THE FILM ALREADY:

Ending Twist: I enjoyed the resolution as is, but as a writer I highly suspect that the screenwriter had a different intent. Namely, at the moment after the kiss, our hero Captain realizes that “Everything’s Gonna Be all Right.” That’s really sweet and also a clue to the audience that he’s still Jake. But, I think the writers had probably written earlier drafts so that after the kiss, Captain Jake evaporates out and Teacher Fletcher evaporates back in. Of course Fletcher would be confused pulling back from the kiss, just as Captain Jake was confused at the open of the film. Alas, though, Fletcher’s would be a happier confusion. Now, wouldn’t that have been fun for the audiences?

Why I think that should have been the resolution: 1) The entire script artfully and beautifully builds Captain Jake as a sort of reluctant messiah. That freeze-frame rolling shot of happy train-travelers proves my point. (As is, it’s sweet, but filmmakers could have pushed that even farther into the giddy surreal for me.) Anyway, Jake “giving his life” not just for all these folks but to give Fletcher back his … that’s the ultimate for a reluctant messiah. 2) I don’t know if it’s a physics rule, but it’s certainly a writer rule to avoid having two consciousnesses of the same person existing at the same time. 3) With Fletcher back in play, and audiences thinking Captain Jake dead, the text message/ending shot of Jake on life support has even stronger impact.

Suggested ending changes (tweaks): Perhaps, filmmakers felt that letting Jake live out Fletcher’s life was more amenable to audiences. Or maybe just someone with the most clout behind the scenes decided it to be so. In any case, I don’t mind the choice. I would make one change, though. A small one. After the kiss … scene change to Goodwin getting the message. This is way cool. We experience that eerie feeling Goodwin feels - something amazing’s just transpired though it seems like an ordinary day. I’d have rode that wave a bit longer … and faded to black on it. Give just a few important ending credits … maybe 10-20 seconds worth, then as people are getting up to leave the theatre, fade back in with Captain Jake still alive in the box. This gives audiences enough time to truly enjoy the Goodwin jolt … and then enjoy a second one.

Why it couldn’t be: Kudos to filmmakers for distracting us from figuring out why their scenario probably could never be. But, upon reflection, it occurs to me that the film is really just a collection of varying possibilities for the last 8 minutes of a person’s life. What fun! But, in reality, that person only experienced one of those choices. Which prompts me to wax philosophic for a moment. Each of us is born into this world with infinitely many choices before us. What a beautiful thing, but overwhelming. It’s a good thing we’re so narrow-minded or we’d be intimidated into paralyses with the branching possibilities. Still, each moment we live, we make choices. And in doing so, other possibilities for those moments evaporate from the possible. That sounds sad, but life isn’t about possibilities, it’s about choices. A subtle, but important distinction. Said another way, we are not the sum of our possibilities. That’s an illusion. But, as individuals, we are the sum of our choices. This is what defines us. Picture a squirrel at the base of a huge 300 year oak tree. For purposes of this analogy -- assume an “up” only movement. Squirrel looks up and imagines himself climbing this branch or that. But as Squirrel climbs, the choice of branch, eliminates other possibilities. As Eastern religions are always trying to tell us, we live only in the now. Squirrel does not live in those other now-obsolete options, nor in the options above. Squirrel’s reality is the branch currently under foot (err, paw) -- which is defined by a life of choices. It’s scary and beautiful, isn’t it? To bring my point back to “Source Code.” The teacher Fletcher only experienced one of infinitely many possibilities for the last 8 minutes of his life. So, even if science could “keep alive” that last bit of “flash” memory to somehow give to another person (Jake, in this case) … Jake could only see that one choice made by Fletcher. So a film of that idea would look like Swiss cheese. Anytime Captain Jake attempted to try a possibility other than the one Fletcher chose, elements in his visuals would drop out to blank, as Fletcher did not have them in his experience and therefore recall. Granted, Fletcher’s subconscience may have recorded many incidentals that Fletcher wouldn’t have noticed were he not to have been killed. But since Fletcher did not get off the train early at the Glen brook Station, there is no way Jake would have access to visuals like the white van, etc. etc. The fact that we believed that could be possible is a credit to filmmakers for artfully suspending our doubt.

WARNING: Shameless Plug at foot!!!! Turn back now lest you be convinced to buy my book. If you enjoy such life-reflective discussion (and in a far more entertaining writing style) check out my books. All of my books push their genre into philosophic thought. If you want the most poetically so, try my Zen Repair and the Art of Riding Chili. I’m an Indie publisher so to thank you for purchasing directly though my site, I’d appreciatively sign the books to whomever you “choose” to gift them, including you. “Thank you for your consideration.” (That’s the line studios use when they leave a copy of their film with Academy Awards judges. Seems apropos here.)

-- Books by Ross Anthony, Author/Illustrator --


  • Source Code. Copyright © 2011.
  • Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, Cas Anvar. Directed by Duncan Jones. Summit Entertainment

Grade..........................A- (3/4)


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Copyright © 1998-2016 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at HollywoodReportCard.com, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: www.RossAnthony.com or call 1-800-767-7186. Check out his other sites too: Author*Illustrator*Speaker, Motobookothon 2009, M9, Write Triangle, TwT. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.


Last Modified: Friday, 24-Jun-2011 14:20:47 PDT