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
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