In the somewhat near future,
cloning and invitro fertilization techniques have allowed the human
race to determine what personality traits are acceptable
and select them at will. Those with the preferred traits are allowed to
live in the cities, which are shielded from the harmful rays of the sun.
Those that possess the unwanted traits -- like the potential to have a
disease -- are forced to live in the desert-like areas outside the cities.
Passage from city to city is controlled by the issuing of passes called
papelles. Those with the papelles are "covered" by the insurance
companies who seem to determine who is allowed to do what.
Starring: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton,
and Om Puri
Because of the cloning and IVF, it's possible that someone could meet
a complete stranger with the exact DNA structure as their sister or brother,
for example. To keep the gene pool free from the contamination from what
basically amounts to inbreeding, the law states that no one is permitted
to marry or have sex with someone with more than a 25% similar genetic
code. Breaking this law -- Code 46 -- is illegal and the punishment included
being banished to outside the cities, where the code is not enforced.
William (Tim Robbins) is an insurance investigator called to look into
some counterfeit papelles that are being circulated in Shanghai. William
seems to possess the ability to determine someone's guilt by merely asking
them to offer one fact about themselves. While interviewing possible suspects
at a printing company, William meets Maria (Samantha Morton). He immediately
seems intrigued by her and, although he determines her to be guilty of
counterfeiting the papelles, he lets her go free. Since he is on a limited
business trip, they have a one-night stand. However, it seems to mean
much more than the typical one-nighter to both of them.
When it's determined that William's initial investigation did not turn
up the counterfeiter, he is sent back to Shanghai to find the real one.
Since he knows Maria is responsible, he goes to her apartment but she's
not there. She's been relocated to the outside and William has to find
More of a love story that takes
place in a futuristic setting than a science fiction film, Code
no long drawn out explanation of everything
that's going on aside from an explanation about what the Code 46 means
to the citizens of the future we visit in the movie. Because there are
no clearly defined "good guys" or "bad guys", Code
46 takes a more realistic look at a future that's really not that far
away from becoming our reality. It also means that sci-fi fanboys who
assume they're going to get a space opera or a lot of action are going
to be sorely disappointed by the movie's slow and deliberate pace and
complete lack of laser battles or kick-ass space hardware.
Director Mike Winterbottom is big on long takes and sweeping camera shots
and the film has beautiful cinematography. Filmed in a number of dazzling
locations including Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London and a few places
in India, Code 46 has a unique combination of archetectural style that
creates a futuristic cityscape. It never allows the viewer to get jarred
out of the story by looking completely out of place like a CGI-created
skyline or matte painting would have done. (Do they do matte paintings
Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton are both Academy Award nominees, with
Robbins actually winning for his work in Mystic River. Neither is particularly
taxed by what's required of them in Code 46, but the entire film is low-key
not just their performances, so that's not a knock on them at all. In
fact, if they showed too wide a range of emotion, it would ruin the atmosphere
that seems to have been so carefully constructed by the script and the
It's not an easy film to recommend, but I really liked Code
pace and refusal to over-explain everything. If you like your science
fiction full of action and special effects, you won't like this movie.
If you like to think and can enjoy a movie that can make you do so as
it goes about its storytelling business, you might want to check it out.
Jones (former member of The Clash) sings The Clash song "Should
I Stay or Should I Go?" in the karaoke-esque club scene. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)