Basic Movie Info: CODE46 stars Tim Robbins (Andy DuFresne from The Shawshank Redemption); and Samantha Morton (the bald PreCog girl from Minority Report.)
CODE46 was released on DVD in 2004.
It is one hour and thirty-three minutes in length.
The first time I saw this movie, about two years ago, I thought it was kind of cool, and it seemed a bit like BLADE RUNNER. I later came to realize that it was one of those rare films that would leave an indelible impression on me. I was thinking about it and remembering it long after I saw it. Now, after seeing it seven more times in the last couple of months, I think it is the greatest movie ever made. So what happened between my first viewing of the film and my seventh viewing?
- I was drawn to watch it again and again because it had a certain visual and emotional appeal that fascinated me. It also had certain indefinable qualities.
Read more in Science Fiction
I believe that this film is the CITIZEN KANE of today–and I haven’t found any reviewers that have noticed the major cinematic innovations in this film.
Just now, after watching it for the eighth time, I unfortunately read others’ reviews of it on Metacritic. Reading those reviews made me realize how precious my own perceptions of things are to me, and how precious others’ perceptions must be to them. And how very differently people see things.
Some reviewers gave the movie 10 stars (the highest rating), and other reviewers gave it zero stars. Some reviewers said there was “great chemistry” between the two main romantic characters, and others felt that they had “zero chemistry.” Some reviewers said it was boring and hard to follow, while others said it was engaging, magnetic and fascinating.
- Only a significant work of art can inspire such sincere and opposite reactions. I believe that CODE46 is an amazing work of art. It is at once completely realistic and cinematically artistic. But why do I feel that it is the greatest movie ever made, so far? Let me count the ways…
CODE46 is a science fiction romance with virtually no special effects, except natural reflections and in-camera filters. There were no Hollywood sets. It was all filmed on location in London and ultra-modern Dubai.
One thing to watch for is why the moral failure at the center of the story may have happened.
Please realize that this is a very well thought-out film. If some things seem not to make sense, you might have fun thinking about them again a little more, or even watch the film again.
CODE46 is the futuristic story of an investigator named William Geld (Robbins) who is searching for the person or persons who are making fake passports (”papelles”) The futuristic world of this movie has all of society segregated into either high-tech cities or deserts. You need a valid papelle to get into the cities–or out of them. One of the reasons you need a papelle is that a huge IT database, The Sphinx, monitors the actions of all people to protect them from genetic health risks.
One of the health risks concerns the then widespread practices of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and cloning. Many people are genetically related to one another without knowing it. To avoid genetic disaster, people are required to check with The Sphinx to find out if they can have sex or marry or have children. So the “Big Brother” in this movie is not portrayed as being all bad–The Sphinx often saves people’s lives.
The investigator, played by Tim Robbins, has a job whose objective is to find out who is counterfeiting the papelles. He takes an “empathy virus” in order to read the minds of potential suspects. When he finds the guilty person, he decides to protect her from prosecution because he has fallen in love with her.
It is a tale of doubly-forbidden love. Make that triply-forbidden, now that I think of it. At the end of the film, it is the viewer who must decide if their sin was punished or not, and whether there was something right about it, despite the obvious wrongness. Or possibly whether, in the future, there might be something wholly legitimate and good that could come out of it.
I must mention that there is one graphic nude shot in the film that lasts for about five seconds. This shot makes sense when understood in the context of one of the main themes of the story. In other words, it is not gratuitous for no reason.
I think this scene was put into the film partially to shock and also to underscore the romantic vs. genetic conflict at the core of the story. If the director’s purpose were pornographic titillation, the graphic scene would have been longer, it would have been repeated, and other more obvious things and physical interactions could have been shown, but they weren’t. I found out that there are several versions of the film, and my guess is that this scene, obviously played by an extra, would have been cut in one of them.
Nudity is not always done to incite lust. It all depends on the intention of the artist or performer or author. I think director Winterbottom threw that five seconds in there to be controversial and to make people think. One last comment in this connection. The love scenes in this film are warm, human, and real.
There is no violence in this film, (except for a two-second shot of a boxer), and I don’t remember any profane language.
- The main reason I love this movie is that it is about human empathy–people loving people just as they are, and for who they are, a theme that is rarely shown in movies. In that sense, it is the healthiest movie I have ever seen.
- There is one very innovative thing about this film. Something very subtle. Something I have never before seen in a movie. Something that is generally considered taboo in movies. The characters are actually, and extremely subtly, and continually: looking at you. Little glimpses here and there. In rear view mirrors. When they enter the room. As they are looking around. As they are thinking. Very quick. Very subtle.
After a while, you strangely begin to feel that somehow the characters are aware of you: they know that you are there–a very unique connected emotion to experience while watching a movie. This was so subtle, I couldn’t figure out how the director achieved this effect of making me feel like I was a character in his movie!
I had to use my remote to slow down the action to see what was happening. The director, Michael Winterbottom, has an amazing amount of empathy for his characters and an amazing cohesiveness in his visual storytelling.
- The contemplative and heart-felt music by The Free Association is wonderful, and the voice-overs by Morton are emotionally intimate. Once Winterbottom hooks you in, which takes him about three seconds, you are there for the duration.
- There are so many ideas (scientific, moral, spiritual, political, relational, emotional), sounds, humorous touches, editing combinations, subtle verbal cues and gorgeous visuals in this movie that it overwhelms you and just starts to wash over you. CODE46 is a masterpiece of cinematography without equal or even a close second.
- The movie is so layered and multifaceted, you can watch it probably five times before you become aware of even the basic things that Winterbottom is doing. In some ways, this movie might remind you of BLADERUNNER or GATTACA, but in many ways it is far superior to both.
CODE46 is my favorite film. I have never seen a film like it.
I didn’t, and you might not either, appreciate everything that is in this film in the first viewing.
This is probably a movie to watch alone, on DVD–with the lights out, and maybe a glass of good wine. And your full attention.
Better yet, skip the wine so you will realize that it is the acting, the story, the beautiful cinematography, the music, the editing, and the directing that are making you feel wonderful.
CODE46 has a great emotional arc, and an ending that might satisfy you, once you think about it.
CODE46 is available for rental at Hollywood Video.
I hope you enjoy this movie as much as I do.