Projections - Movie Reviews

Code 46
Code 46
Starring Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Om Puri, Jeanne Balibar, Togo Igawa, Essie Davis

Michael Winterbottom’s first sci-fi outing, CODE 46, has much originality to it, through his continued work with screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. The director of The Claim and 24 Hour Party People sets up mystery and paranoia in a not too distant future with a greatly diminished oil supply restricting most of the inhabitants to designated zones. Viruses and cloning are integral to this dystopian vision with recent Oscar winner Tim Robins and nominated British actress Samantha Morton headlining.

A subconscious voice-over from Maria, a Shanghai drone, begins Code 46. This surreal transport concludes with her reaching some nebulous location. Then, a Seattle-based insurance investigator, Robbins’ William, comes to check out her workplace endowed with an “empathy virus,” much like a psychic. He’ll find out who is behind the manufacture and sale of “papelles,” a visa/passport umbrella of an insurance policy, that is, illegal because it permits users to leave their assigned living area.

Robbins and Morton share a unique, dreamy rapport, fueled by the deep romantic inklings from William and the sexually assertive Maria. Winterbottom fashions a cautionary tale that has much thought (in a short running time) into the advancement of genetic engineering and government control. William’s investigation is compromised as he becomes more involved with Maria through one of the forged papelles. A worker is killed through one of them. Fate will have Maria and William considering an alternative to their circumscribed existence.

The futuristic stylings emerge more in the film’s second half, after a notable contrast between gleaming city-scapes and the sun-drenched hinterlands, adding to the severity and feeling of isolation. The detail extends to language fusion where English is mixed with Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish and strong location shooting, along with a moody score by Free Association.

Code 46 downplays special effects as it eschews a more visceral tact than last year’s 28 Days Later. The title joins the cloning aspect and like DNA that will spark subtly poignant work by Robbins and Morton, who was the “precog” in Minority Report. A humorous cameo comes by way of Clash vocalist Mike Jones doing “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” To be fair, however, Winterbottom never lets the chillingly mundane and mysterious achieve the right clarity for the human drama unfolding. What ends up being rather affecting has little emotion and empathy for what kind of applications hold for medical science.

Code 46

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