Fresh off his Academy Award winning performance in the film Mystic River, Tim Robbins returns to the silver screen in a romantic science fiction flick. Robbins’ ingénue is none other than Academy Award nominee Samantha Morton (In America, Minority Report). The two cross each other’s paths by way of fate and must try and shield their forbidden love from the prying eyes of Big Brother in the film Code 46.
William (Robbins) is an intuitive detective on a twenty-four hour pass investigating counterfeit cover (sort of like the passports of the future) at a printing factory in Shanghai. While interrogating, or rather playfully questioning the workers of the factory, he reads their minds to determine who the culprit is courtesy of an “Empathy Virus” which lets him hear peoples’ thoughts. Enter Maria (Morton); upon speaking with Maria, William learns of her guilt but chooses to finger another employee as the criminal in question. A brief encounter on a subway car subsequently thereafter leads William and Maria to become smitten with one another and the two veer off into their own world together within the confines of one passionate night. William returns home to Seattle, to his wife and son, only to learn he must go back to Shanghai after his fingering of another goes awry. As he goes to search for Maria he learns she was sent “outside” for violating Code 46; where by genetic twins are not permitted to conceive children or have any sexual relations what so ever. Her memory of the pregnancy and of William is erased, though William frees her from the clinic and their passion re-with an ever-watching eye still gazed upon them.
Robbins and Morton are very good actors, though the material given to them and their zeal as an on-screen item seems apprehensively forced. In no way is that the actors’ fault. The two are entrancing and have a commanding screen presence together, but some of script issues hurt the film as a whole. Robbins plays William with such sympathy; you can’t help but root for the guy. He doesn’t do his job, he cheats on his wife, and he continued to violate the code. Since he’s kind of a bad guy, Robbins’ charm and good looks make the character even more interesting. Morton’s work with Maria is also rather well done. Yet we’ve seen so many free spirited lead women roles this year with Kate Winslett in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Robin Wright Penn in A Home at the End of the World that Morton’s “Maria” could fall under the category of old news. Unlike Penn or Winslett, Morton is shorthaired, snaggle toothed, and has some darker issues that make her slightly stand out amongst this year’s other free spirits.
Director Michael Winterbottom does do a great job behind the camera, he made his futuristic world seem quite real without having noticeably bogus set pieces and computer generated imagery crowding the screen. But, some of the flick was just rather odd; especially the plot’s twist involving Maria’s particular violation. Paging Dr. Freud!
One of the things I found quite interesting of the film was within the Frank Cottrell Boyce dialogue. His use of various spoken languages insinuates a plausible future where we incorporate other words into English (foreshadowed by the film’s opening credits, no doubt). At first I just thought it was cute when William was talking about his young child while Maria responded with “chico or chica?” but throughout the course of the film the word replacement was consistent with many other various characters from beginning to end. The actors were able to integrate the words into their sentences with great ease having them make perfect sense within their tone of voice and situations whether or not the audience speaks or understands the language they adapted. Pretty clever.
Code 46 is rated R only for a ten second Samantha Morton crotch shot and is now playing in select cities. If you want to see it, you’ll have to hunt it down. Is it worth the trouble? Expect Code 46 to be hit and miss.