I started thinking about this question after watching Source Code, a smart sci-fi film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan that was released this week on Blu-ray and DVD. In the movie, Gyllenhaal plays an army pilot who becomes involved in a special government project. The project allows him to go back into the past of another man who is about to experience the last eight minutes of his life before a bomb explosion. It's a taut, intelligent thriller that shows Hollywood hasn't completely forsaken smart, suspenseful sci-fi in favour of superheroes and Autobots.
Doubtless many of us have thought it would be interesting to go back to an earlier point in our lives. You might wish you had done something differently or made a different decision. Or you might just be curious about what you were doing on the day that 'x' happened. Unhappiness can lead people to reflect on seemingly happier times and wish they could go back and see if the good old days were, indeed, that much better.
If the opportunity to go back is without limitations, the temptation to change something in your past will surely be strong. It would be like having your own episode of the Canadian show Being Erica. If you are single or in an unhappy relationship, you might want to go back and ask out that boy or girl that you didn't have the nerve to speak to at the bus stop, in the elevator or in that embarrassing condom costume you wore for Halloween. Or you might do the opposite if you wish you hadn't married the person you are with. Financially it would be cheaper than divorce.
Remember, though, that costs accrue from changing the timeline. Back then the grass might not be any greener on the other side than it is now. Besides, if we really are all living the Plan enforced by The Adjustment Bureau, you might still end up with the same person.
Of course, things you might want to change don't have to be relationship-oriented. Perhaps you'd like to put back that bar of soap you nicked before you were caught for shoplifting, found guilty, banged up with a bunch of hard-nosed thugs, and dragged into a life of crime. Alternatively, you might want to assuage your guilt at not having stepped in to stop someone being beaten up outside the pub last Thursday night (timid Vancouver Canucks fans note, here's your big chance to stop that riot).
On a less morbid note, you could go back to last weekend and take the burgers off the barbecue two minutes earlier so your dinner guests didn't get burned beef in their buns. Or maybe you should go back slightly earlier than that and buy some proper beer so they don’t have to drink Budweiser.
Remember, too, that although it might be your past, things you could change don't have to be about you. You might still be asking yourself why you didn't buy your partner that iPad 2 while it was on sale (this is Apple so those sales don't happen often). Well, now you can. They might be mad at you and say they wish you’d waited until the iPad 3 comes out with its retina display. That's the risk you take, though, when you twang Old Father Time's breeches.
This is also your chance to reflect on your decision to take your eyes off the road shortly before you hit that cow or to stop by the last house on the left (enough said about that one). You might be someone who wishes you had decided not to move to Australia and leave behind your family. Why not take the opportunity to reconsider? (I could go back and decide not to move to Canada but then I'd miss out on my wonderful family and friends and I might never know what poutine is or what it's like to freeze my ass off at -40.)
You might be feeling better now if you could revise that bit at the bar when you decided to have one more whiskey. And if you are only three, here's your chance to go back and stay on the potty for another 30 seconds so that pee isn't running down your leg.
Maybe you don't want to change something, though. You could just be a tourist in time and relive a moment from your past, like Scrooge without the help from ghosts and talking knockers. If it was me, I might go back and relive the last eight minutes of the 1979 F.A. Cup Final. It's one of the few occasions in which Arsenal didn't blow it at the end. Alternatively, I could go back and relive some time with my son when he was one. Then again, I might pick the wrong moment and have to change his diaper. I wouldn't mind listening to this CD again, but I don't need to go back in time to do that.
What would you do if you could go back?
Source Code has been released on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital formats by eOne in Canada and Summit Entertainment in the United States. It will be released on August 15 in the UK by Optimum Releasing.
The North American release includes an audio commentary featuring contributions from Gyllenhaal, director Duncan Jones, and writer Ben Ripley. The special features also include other tidbits, such as comments from the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes insights, and discussions about time travel. These are grouped into a picture-in-picture feature called "Access Source Code" and you can choose which categories of material to see or see it all while the movie is running. At the time of writing, Source Code has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You've got to be good to get that and it is.