The terrorist is eventually revealed to be a disturbed psychopath named - with chilling obviousness - Derek Frost (Michael Arden). Frost tells Stevens that ‘the world is hell’ and that he plans to reduce the planet to ‘rubble’ in order that humanity can start afresh. The brevity and incoherence of this explanation is unsatisfactory - even for a 'deranged' mass murderer - and, combined with the later revelation that Frost harbours ‘anti-government’ views, tends to imply that anybody who opposes the state is a violently dysfunctional misanthropist. Those who have spent time with anarchists will know that this is quite untrue (well, OK, largely untrue).
Source Code is the perfect US propaganda film: the soldier saves America, gets the girl and thwarts the ‘insane’ enemy of the state. In fact, the film’s ideological conservatism is remarkable, even by the standards of contemporary Hollywood. Although Source Code’s premise – a disabled soldier redeems the planet – clearly recalls that of 2009’s Avatar, the film eschews the subtextual references to social antagonism that characterise James Cameron’s films (or what Slavoj Žižek calls Cameron’s ‘Hollywood Marxism’). From the slick aerial shots of Chicago with which the film begins, urban America is a vision of sanitised and corporatised perfection, its geometric matrices of steel and glass gleaming in the sunlight. Like Anish Kapoor’s mirrored Cloud Gate sculpture, at which the film's romantic couple gaze contentedly in the scene towards the end of the film in Chicago's Millennium Park, the film’s storyworld constitutes a smooth bubble with no rough edges; but its depiction of terrorism and the reasons for its prevalence in the post 9/11 world is horribly trite.
Source Code is an engaging enough thriller and the performances are excellent all round; fans of films such as The Butterfly Effect, The Jacket, Déjà Vu and Inception will enjoy this latest addition to the genre. But from a film about terrorism, some reflection upon the causes and contexts of political violence does not seem too much to ask for.