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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Drama > Code 46 (2003/United Artists/MGM DVD)

Code 46


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: B-



Michael Winterbottom attempts to do something we rarely see anymore: a smart Science Fiction film.  Code 46 (2004) offers a world where the government is more involved with interfering in the lives of people than ever before.  There is the unseen elite who makes the rules, a semi-elite group of workers who live in cities, and the majority of the population who barely lives at all, struggling outside in vast and abandoned wastelands.


Those in the latter two categories cannot move around freely without special permission and that is how the world population is controlled.  Tim Robbins plays a privileged investigator from a near-future Seattle who is checking into people who are crossing the socio-economic boarders without proper papers or permission.  In the process, he meets a beautiful worker elite (Samantha Morton) who he becomes enamored over, but they turn out to not be biologically compatible by “Code” standards and there is more to this than meets the eye.  They get involved and the game begins to save her.


This means actually breaking the law and the consequences are the usual for such tales, often imprisonment, torture or even death.  Winterbottom and the screenplay by Frank Cottrell Bryce will remind one of hints of great films like Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965) and George Lucas’ original versions of THX-1138, if not quite as good.  In some ways, the film is not dark enough visually or thematically, but the filmmakers should get points for avoiding cliché as much as possible.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 x 1 image is a good transfer of a film that purposely tries to have a dull and degraded look, but that is the intent of Winterbottom and co-cinematographers Alwin Kuchler, B.S.C., and Marcel Zyskind deliver a believable future world gone wrong even more so than the overrated 1997 Andrew Niccol film Gattica.  That film also achieved enough visual density to convince us of its future, but it got stuck way too early for its own dystopic, genetic premise to work.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not bad, but the sound design is subtle just the same.  A DTS option would have brought out more of it, including a somewhat minimalist score by The Free Association that works well enough.  However, this is pretty good for a dialogue-driven film and makes for some interesting comparisons to the recent Alex Proyas film I, Robot (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  Extras include several trailers for other MGM DVDs and this film, four deleted scenes that made no significant difference, and a 16.5 minutes-long featurette.


Previously, we looked at Winterbottom’s much-celebrated Butterfly Kiss and though it was not what we had hoped, it showed a promising filmmaking talent.  Ten feature films later, he continues to make a name for himself as one of England’s best independent film directors.  Code 46 deserves the second chance DVD will give it, but because it is not a fantasy or space opera, people may not have the interest or be willing to conjure up the attention span a film like this deserves.  You should, because it is definitely worth your time.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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