El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Code 46 is a fascinating film that deals with love and relationships. The genre is science fiction, but it’s not about aliens and ray guns. Instead, the film, part love story, part thriller, does what many great works of science fiction do: it uses the illusion of the future to tell stories that are applicable to us in the present.

Sometime in the future, cities become overcrowded, and security checkpoints are used for passage. To get through the checkpoints, people need papelles, a combination of visa, passport and insurance.

William is an insurance investigator from Seattle who is sent to Shanghai, China to investigate counterfeit papelles that appear to be coming form the Sphinx Insurance agency. He has taken an empathy virus to assist in his work. The virus allows him to get information from people when they refuse to answer his questions. When he questions Maria, he suspects her, but is attracted to her, so he turns in another employee.

William and Maria go after work to celebrate her birthday. She trusts William and sells fake papelles in front of him to her friend Damian. They go back to her apartment and make love. He returns home to his wife and family the next day.

William can’t stop thinking about Maria, but he is unable to contact her. His work informs him that someone using fake papelles from Sphinx has died in Asia, so he must go back to Shanghai and reopen the investigation. It turns out the user was Damian. He uses the opportunity to search for Maria. He finds her at an out-of-town clinic where her pregnancy has been terminated due to a Code 46 violation. Her memories associated with the pregnancy have been erased, which means she doesn’t know who William is. He has twenty-four hours to learn what is going on before his papelles expire.

I enjoyed watching the relationship between these two characters. Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton are very good actors and they were very authentic in their roles. Where the characters end up is completely believable and I was satisfied with the results. The plot comes to an abrupt end, which might throw viewers, but the story is about the characters and themes more than it is about the plot.

The film does a wonderful job making us believe we are in the future without having to spend a ton of money. Instead of building expensive sets or using CGI, they used real places that had unusual architecture like Shanghai and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Ideas in the story also helped to convey a different time by extrapolating current issues, such as population control of cities. Even the language was slightly altered, mostly English with some foreign words mixed in.

If you want to get away from all the big action films at the multiplexes, Code 46 is a great alternative. It requires that you pay attention or else you might miss something, so do all your snacking beforehand. It makes a great conversation starter, so after seeing it, go out with your friends for a cocktail. Not only can you discuss the film, but also you can delve into a chat about the future and where we are all headed. The future will be here before you know it.