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15 July 2005

Code 46

Tim Robbins & Samantha Morton
Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People)

From Hollywood Video: "This futuristic thriller, set in an Orwellian future in which humankind lives in heavily controlled cities, follows an insurance investigator as he travels to a shanty town outside the city to solve a case of forgery. Instead, he falls in love with a mysterious woman who has been accused of a 'Code 46' violation."

Again, as with Something the Lord Made, I rented this film because of the two main actors and the director. I adore Samantha Morton and will watch anything with her in it. Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People was an energetic visual romp, making him a director worthy of checking out again. And Keven and I enjoy sci-fi/futurology projects, if only to witness and critique the attempt - the idea - even if it does not fully coalesce.

While multi-cultural, post-modern films have been done before, this one has a particularly slick feel, purposeful and erratic at the same time. Morton slides in and out of accents, from German to English to American, all the while speaking the amalgamated language of English peppered with Spanish, Arabic and Chinese phrases, which reminded me of Cityspeak in Blade Runner.

There is also a playful contrast between the ultra-modern landscape of Shanghai and the out-world of the Middle East (filmed in Dubai), comprised of deserts, huts and contraband - remote places where people still know of Code 46, the "Cover" required to move from place to place, and the reasons why people would choose a relatively barren exile over life in an extremely regulated metropolis. Rules are still made to be broken. Winterbottom's use of slow panning shots, dizzying panoramas, and quick, repetitive or flash-forward cuts kept the film visually interesting and compelling.

However the film failed on two points essential to its overall message and emotional resonance. First, the purported chemistry between Morton and Robbins (which they talked quite a bit about in the DVD's "making of" segment) was absent. Robbins seemed a cold fish, and Morton was less focused and accessible than in her roles in Minority Report and Enduring Love. Also, the taboo that was Code 46 was not really made real. There was no feeling of the forbidden when they came together, rebellion as they defied the rules of the Sphinx (the government), or the risks they took in breaking those rules. Without establishing that sense of the forbidden, their doomed love story had less impact.

After some discussion, Keven and I came up with several interesting intellectual tangents that dealt with issues of memory, self-preservation, selfish genes, Oedipus, and rules intended for the greater good, but these thoughtful ideas did not give the movie any more heart.

That and the DVD cover makes Tim Robbins look like Gary Sinise.

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