Code 46

It's the future, and the melting pot theory is now reality.  Civilization seems to exist in two regions; in sealed mega cities requiring permission to enter, and the 'outside.'  English is the predominant language, but sprinkled throughout are snippets of others like Spanish and Mandarin (which leads to some truly clunky dialogue).  Cloning and in vitro fertilization are part of the norm, which resulted in the creation of Code 46, the law that states that anybody who shares 100%, 50%, or 25% similar genetic materials may not mate.  Code 46 is Michael Winterbottom's view of the future.  This is science fiction at its more abstract; a movie about ideas, not necessarily about aliens and robots.  The problem is that Code 46 is pretty dull.

Most of this comes from the performance of its two stars, Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton.  Both are gifted actors, but nearly everything here is done in a dry monotone.  Robbins (Anchorman, Mystic River) is William works for a large corporation, investigating instances of identity fraud.  In order to gain entrance into these large cities, people need approved 'papelles,' doled out or withheld for specific reasons.  William is in Shanghai, looking into a factory where somebody is printing fake papelles.  He took an empathy virus, which, in essence, allows him to read the minds of people if they tell him something about them.  From his interviews, he realizes that Maria (Morton, In America, Minority Report) is the culprit.  Yet, something draws her to him, and he fails to turn her in.  Instead, he begins a pretty boring affair with her. 

Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Claim) and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People, The Claim) never make clear to the viewer why William feels the way he does towards Maria.  What is it about her that would make this straight-laced company man give up everything he believes in?  She seems pretty ordinary is most aspects, aside from the fact that she counterfeits identity papers for strangers.  Both are lacking in the personality department.  It feels like Winterbottom and Boyce wanted to make a movie about free will, and used the idea of Code 46 as a backdrop for their ideas on love and free will.

It turns out that William and Maria are in violation of Code 46, which sets off a chain of events that are just as boring as they are.  Despite attempts by everybody to keep them apart, William tries as hard as he can to make his way to Maria.  His love for her is strong enough that he is willing to violate legal and societal norms to be with her.  The depth of the story never really goes beyond this.  Winterbottom doesn't really explore the ramifications of their relationship, or anything beyond the fact that they love each other.  Code 46 feels like a first draft of a film, where the basic shell of a story is laid out, but still needs a lot of work.  The one really nice aspect of this movie is that Winterbottom cast his film internationally, with many familiar faces and highly esteemed foreign (especially Asian and Indian) actors taking some small roles.  So while Winterbottom's future may be multinational, it's not that exciting.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for a scene of sexuality, including brief graphic nudity.

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