Posted: 08/30/2004


Code 46


by Chris Wood

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“Tell me something about yourself… Anything?” William (Tim Robbins, Mystic River) asks a front desk worker at a clinic. The man says that he inherited the job from his mother and William now knows all he needs to know.

William has a virus. However, this virus is not one that makes a person ill but one that enables the host to enjoy the ability to read peoples minds with only a small amount of personal information from them. And being that William is a government investigator on an ID fraud case this added ability would appear to be a handy weapon… But what if you didn’t want to know the truth?

Code 46 takes place in the future where “Big Brother” is a reality and the logistics brought forth in child bearing are similar to the book, Brave New World. The cities of the world are tightly watched and people are only let in and out based on special travel permits called “papelles.” These “papelles” are only issued by the government referred to as, “The Sphinx.” In between the cities is the outside world jammed with non-citizens (people without “papelles” forced to live primitive lives).

On assignment in Shanghai, with a 24 hour “papelle,” William determines who the forger is, but cannot bring himself to turn her in. He has fallen in love with the guilty party named, Maria (Samantha Morton, In America, Minority Report). But their time together is short and after the 24 hours William must return back to his home in Seattle.

In Seattle, William is a married man with a child, but the memory of Maria is strong and it haunts him. This is done through narration by Morton as Maria. She calls to him while his life before her continues.

Director Michael Winterbottom and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce are no strangers to each others work, having collaborated on 1997’s Welcome to Sarajevo and 2000’s The Claim. Winterbottom is currently working on the upcoming movie Freedomland, with Morgan Freeman and Julianne Moore attached to star (Winterbottom seems to have little difficulty in getting Oscar caliber actors in his pictures).

An interesting aspect of this movie, though there are many, is that no one ever raises their voice in the movie. It was kind of bizarre. Even when Robbins, as William, was at the airport and was unable to obtain an exit from Shanghai to Seattle, there was no yelling or screaming about not being able to return home. This may have to do with everyone in the movie’s futuristic world being conceived in vitro, or maybe a realization that they were being watched most of the time and needed to be on their best behavior.

The cinematography, delivered by Alwin H. Kuchler (The Claim) and Marcel Zyskind (28 Days Later) was done well. Some of the shots were a buffet for the eyes, but the camera was not intrusive towards the characters. It was as if the camera was following the characters around without them knowing (which is kinda the idea anyway).

Despite an interesting story line and well shot scenes, the movie did have some things that made it more difficult to watch and follow. One was the background music. It was not that the music was a poor choice, just that the level of its volume and that of Morton’s character’s voice during narration made it difficult to hear her. Also, all people in this futuristic world spoke - even if only a few words - multiple languages. And while that is not far fetched at all, no subtitles were given. Though most of the languages spoken were only in exchanges of pleasantries, it became a distraction because there is a lot to absorb from the plot.

Something else that could be a crutch to the movie reaching a more mainstream audience is how there is no real closure. Some may enjoy this (as I did) in that your imagination is allowed to do a little work and draw some conclusions, but far and wide most like a story where it is all explained. Code 46 will be another “indie” that will probably catch a pretty good following on DVD, but as far as nationwide release, it may only be a New York/Los Angeles viewing.

Chris Wood is a freelance writer and graduate student for fine arts in creative fiction and non-fiction writing.

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