Code 46

Code 46
Cast: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Togo Igawa, Christopher Simpson, Mick Jones, Nina Fog
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenplay: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Genre: Science Fiction/Drama
Rated: M 15+ adult themes, medium level violence, medium level coarse language
Running Time: 92 Minutes

How Do You Solve A Crime When The Last Thing You Want To Know Is The Truth?

Code 46 is a love story set in an eerily possible near future where cities are heavily controlled and only accessible through checkpoints. People cannot travel unless they have "papelles", a special travel insurance. Outside cities, the desert has taken over, and shanty towns are jammed with non-citizens - people without papelles whose lives are severely restricted.

William (Tim Robbins) is a family man who works as an insurance investigator. When his company sends him to another city to solve a case of fake papelles, he meets a woman names Maria (Samantha Morton). Although he knows she's been creating the forgeries, he falls completely in love with her. He hides her crime and they have a wild, passionate affair that can only last as long as his papelles : 24hours.

Back home, William is obsessed with the memory of Maria. He tries to see her but is refused the necessary papers to travel. Desperate, he uses one of the fake papelles he kept from his investigation. He eventually tracks her down, only to discover she has been accused of a Code 46 violation.

My Verdict:
At the beginning of 'Code 46' there are three rules explained: those of Code 46. These rules relate to genetic planning and management and also the implications of a violation of this code and appear straightforward. This is the future, but the time is not revealed and it is a time where in vitro fertilisation and genetic manipulation has risen to a level where many inhabitants of the world are related and so the code has been written to put a stop to genetically related offspring. You have to be tested before creating a new life because of the overpopulation of the world, which has lead to cities being for the 'do-gooders' and the borders and beyond for those who violate rules.

'Code 46' is a very, very slow movie, which takes a while to get used to, although the long sweeping view of the desert outside Shanghai at the beginning of the movie is indicative of the pace. Tim Robbins stars as William, an insurance investigator who has been given an empathy virus that so that he is able to determine what a person is really thinking when they provide him with some useless trivial information about themselves. His company, Sphinx, sends him to track down the person who is forging illegal "papelles" in a company in Shanghai, and quickly discovers it is Maria, played by a very boyish, almost androgynous looking Samantha Morton. Somehow, he cannot reveal she is the criminal and the two spend the available 24 hours engaged in an intense love affair. This pairing is most unusual and feels like a bad case of opposites attract. When William returns home, he cannot wipe the memory of Maria and decides to return to Maria, which is where the story becomes complicated involving a violation of Code 46.

The story of 'Code 46' is complex and takes time to become clear even with Maria giving a retrospective voiceover narration. This is not your obvious science fiction movie with high-tech gadgetry and visuals to provide the proof of advanced time, but relying heavily on rules and language to imply it is set somewhere in the future. English is spoken, yet it is interspersed with many other languages, often with only one word interchanged - "papelles" being an example, which are a form of visa.

When William returns to Maria, they impulsively decide to flee the city and spend their first night on the "outside" and this involves a sex scene that some may find confronting and unnecessary.

'Code 46' is a very different movie coming from director Michael Winterbottom, known for his innovative '24 Hour Party People'(2002) and more recently '9 Songs' (2005). It is deliberately measured, relies heavily on Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton to carry the movie, which they do for the most part, and unique with its style which is a welcome relief when so many sci-fi movies need visuals to convince. This is certainly not a movie for everyone, but worth the effort for those seeking an alternative to this genre.

Rating : ***

Christina Bruce