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Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom, 2004)

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Jan 11, 2009 10:18AM) (new)

Phillip Code 46 (Michael Winterbottom, 2004)

this is SPOILER central...

Here's a film I've flirted with at the video store for some time. The tale of Code 46 is set in the future, global warming has struck major proportions and citizens are divided between "covered" and "non-covered". Covered, for the most part, seems to mean you have a place to live. Because the sun is no longer our friend, but a radiating blast furnace that can conceivably harm you (not a lot of attention is paid to detail in this film), to live uncovered means you must exist in harmful conditions. The other operating preface to the film is that Code 46 (a law) states that no one sharing dna familes are allowed to copulate or reproduce (about an hour into the film you realize that most citizens have been born out of utero, and it is possible that people share the same parent's dna without ever having been raised in the same family....yikes!).

With this set up, Tim Robbins enters as a clairvoyant detective investigating a suspect who is reproducing "papel", which is a kind of passport/visa allowing citizens to travel or live in shelter. Samantha Morton is his prime suspect, and he inexplicably bypasses her in his investigation even though he is pretty certain she is the prime suspect in this case.

He neglects to bring her to justice out of desire, which isn't wholly believable, and instigates an affair with her (he is, apparently, happily married with a son he loves). This affair triggers a chain of events that drives acts 3 and 4 to a conclusion that has little to offer other than men can commit crimes and return to their families and women are banished to the desert.

There are some good things about this film - the visual design sense is pretty flawless, but there are one too many sequences that flirt with montage, where the camera drifts on a landscape and groovy radiohead inspired music pulses on the soundtrack. There are several erotic sequences, some seem warranted by the script, some seem gratuitous. I'm not especially complaining - they are done in good taste for the most part, but they also, along with the montage effects, cause the film to drag a bit.

To be fair to this movie, I want to stipulate that I'm leaving out some big plot devices (that are interesting), but for the most part, the film is just too atmospheric and languid to instigate any real tension or concern for the characters. Samantha Morton has to narrate several voice-over sequences - some seem crucial to the narrative, quite a few feel useless and annoying. It's not her voice, it's the material.

I'm not sure if I'm recommending this one or not. There are some nice things about the film, but for the sci-fi genre, it sort of reads like Gattaca (the two films share some thematic similarities) but without the tension or suspense. Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton are both asked to play this one as naturallyas possible - to align with the ambient narrative direction, but result is that they seem to be walking through quite a few of the scenes. In closing, Code 46 is driven by some nice ideas and a fine visual style, but lacks substance.


message 2: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 342 comments Mod
I watched this one a few years ago and felt the same way Phillip; not terrible, but kinda forgettable. This one was erased from my memory until I read your post. Maybe I'm a victim of Rekall, Inc...


message 3: by Mawgojzeta (new)

Mawgojzeta I enjoyed this film. Not enough to want to own it, but enough to bring it up to my friends as a suggestion. It liked the mish-mash of languages and the world that was created was interesting. I had issues with the ending. It was not fair, nor did I feel it was the most reasonable. It seems that in that type of society all involved would be "punished" in some way.


message 4: by Ubik (new)

Ubik | 101 comments Mod
I saw it a few years ago as well and found it way overdone. Some of the stuff like the combination of languages is a little overwrought


message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy | 12 comments I feel like y'all - it seemed like a bizarre punishment, but also what the Morton character asks the Robbins character to do towards the end seems rather out-of-kilter. Plus, the movie has such a distance to it - I didn't feel that the characters were really connecting, so the "eroticism" was hard to buy.


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