> Volume 6 > Number 26


Michael Winterbottom

Tim Robbins
Samantha Morton
Om Puri
Jeanne Balibar
Nabil Elouhabi

Release: 6 Aug. 04

Code 46


Although it occasionally hints at depth and wavers towards avenues of intrigue, Code 46 becomes yet another inane quasi-futuristic dystopian film. All these seem to exist in the same sphere, panging the drums against our current trajectory by threatening the possibility of a future in which most of the last is desert. Rarely are the Messages truly communicable in films where half the dialogue is invented words for future devices.

Here the key word is “papelle” for the tiny documents that allow people to move from place to place in this decomposing urban future. Without it, a person is forced to remain in their current city, atrophying; if they attempt to leave, their lack of a return papelle will forever strand them in the desert regions in between the cities. Additionally, there’s the idea of Code 46, or the part of the future law that makes it illegal to procreate with anyone hinting towards similar DNA -- likely a future problem due to clones and royals. In this case, the Code 46 is called on papelle factory worker Maria (Morton in a performance the film doesn’t deserve) and the investigator, William (Robbins) trying to find out how papelles are being smuggled out of the factory.

I hate these inane words, their inane uses, and the inane films that concoct them. Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Code 46 comes as the type of retrogressive step too many filmmakers take. Their last two films together, The Claim and 24 Hour Party People, were amazing takes on genre filmmaking. I don’t doubt that this was in many ways the draw for Winterbottom, that he might be able to fix the broken machine that is this futuristic genre.

Furthermore, Code 46 doesn’t even quite make the cut within its own rights. There have been good films to come from this idea, ranging from Blade Runner to Gattaca. Though they often have myriad plots that waver towards the incomprehensible, they also offer character development that makes the lesser attempts (from Dune to Equilibrium) more noticeable. Even as the amazing score by Steve Hilton and David Holmes (under the credit The Free Association) gives weight to the events at hand, the story feels immeasurably forced and unwieldy. Like the contrivances that must exist for these plots to survive, Code 46 never fully rings true. The director and writer might have meant well, but the final product makes less sense the baby-cloning Euralians

©2004, David Perry,, 25 June 2004