Source Code: Highly Immoral (SPOILERS)

April 9th, 2011 by Kyle

This post contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Source Code, don’t read it.

So I just came back from the movie, and I have a couple of very big ethical problems with what happened in the movie. Here are the big ones:

1) Goodwin was absolutely wrong to pull the plug on Stevens at the end. Dr. Rutledge may have been an asshole, but he was absolutely right – if Stevens was one of the few matches – or maybe the only match – for the Source Code equipment, and his continued use of it would likely save thousands or even millions of lives in future uses, then sorry, but screw whether being in the box makes Stevens miserable. Balancing millions of lives against one person getting all emo about still being alive when he’d rather not be is no moral contest at all. Wipe his memory and get ready for the next mission. This is why the old cliche about not getting too close to your subject exists, and why, for all that it is a cliche, it’s still a good idea. If Stevens died, and the next day, or week, or month, he was needed again to save another few thousand lives, but wasn’t there because Goodwin went soft, then she’d be responsible for the deaths of those people.

2) So at the end of the film, we see the kiss, and Stevens thinks he’s going to die, but then the kiss ends, he’s still there with the girl, and everything’s happy. Cue music and credits, right? Well, not so fast. Let’s think about this a second. Apparently what’s happened is that somehow Stevens ended up in a timeline where he saved everybody on the train, and ended up as Sean Fentress permanently. Which brings up the question: What about Sean Fentress? If Colter Stevens’s personality has overwritten Sean Fentress’s personality permanently, then hasn’t Colter Stevens effectively just killed Sean Fentress and stolen Fentress’s body, stuff, life, and future? You could say that Fentress was going to die anyway, but is that true? Remember, while it’s true that in this timeline Fentress survived only because Stevens became him for eight minutes, after that, Fentress would have survived and had his whole future ahead of him. Is it right that Stevens ends up with all of that? After all, Colter Stevens made his choices – we are told that he kept going back to Afghanistan again and again to be with his unit. Whether that was noble of him or not, it should be him who faces the consequences of his choices – not Sean Fentress. Certainly, it makes what Stevens said untrue. He didn’t save everybody on that train, because for Fentress, what’s the effective difference between the bomb going off and what ended up happening to him? For all real purposes, he’s dead either way.

At very least, this makes the end of the film not quite as happy an ending as one might have been led to believe.

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Categories: Movies

2 Responses to “Source Code: Highly Immoral (SPOILERS)”

  1. Dave says:

    I agree with you that some of the choices the characters made in the movie were morally reprehensible. The whole idea behind the movie was ludicrous in the first place.

    If the “source code” is indeed the last eighth minutes Sean Fentress’s memories then the information available to stevens would have been limited to what Fentress knew.

    Fentress would have no idea where the bomb was on the train or the fact that the white van was out in the parking lot.

    The way the movie ended was absurd. It implies that mucking about in the memories of a dead person creates a parallel universe every time it is done.

    It was just a very poor movie over all.

  2. Dale says:

    1. If somebody blew millions of people up, it would be down to them , not her. The only person to blame would be the terrorists. She wouldn’t be responsible. Her action may even save lives – who knows the future ? I mean, what if in retaliation for a source code ‘success’ the bad guys decide to regroup and strike again on a much larger scale? Etc. Everybody has to take responsibility for their own actions and make the best choices.

    2. yes he stole his life, but only in one universe. In another it may be the other way around. Maybe it all balances out… How knows? :-). Multiple universes opens a can of worms, including some very deep philosophical questions about the nature of life/consciousness etc ! :-)

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