Thursday, March 22, 2012

Code 46

Originally Written and Posted on 7/21/07 w/ Additional Edits.

Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Code 46 is a futuristic film about a fraud investigator who falls in love with a woman who is breaking a law concerning human production in relations to clones. Shot in locations like Shanghai and India, the film is not entirely science fiction but mixed in with film-noir and drama. Starring Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Om Puri, Jeanne Balibar, and Nina Wadia. Code 46 is a mesmerizing, haunting film from the team of Frank Cottrell Bryce and Michael Winterbottom.

In a non-too distant future where genetics is now the law with people living in cities are referred to people living in the inside while those in poor worlds live in the outside. Traveling has also been restricted while human contact in relation to similar genetic strands that is a violation known as Code 46. For 25-year old Maria Gonzalez (Samantha Morton), who lives in Shanghai, she has been to both worlds as she keeps having a recurring dream that follows her closer and closer every year on her birthday to await her faith. Arriving into Shanghai to discover a frauds investigation is a Seattle investigator named William Geld (Tim Robbins). Sent to interview people at a company called the Sphinx that manufactures insurance documents, he meets the company's boss Bahkland (Om Puri). He finds the suspect in Maria as William finds himself attracted to her. Instead, William pins the crime on another person as he pursues Maria personally.

After engaging Maria, the two immediately have a conversation while she reveals that she creates fake insurance documents for friends and such to help in their traveling destinations. The two go to a club where she meets a friend Damian, (David Fahm) whom she gives a document, as the two leave to their apartment where a one-night stand occurs. Having to return home to Seattle where his wife Sylvie (Jeanne Balibar) and son Jim (Taro Sherabayani), William leaves Shanghai with Maria a free woman. Upon his return, he receives a report from his superior (Shelley King) about Damian as he has to come back for a further investigation. After talking to Bahkland, he learns that Maria has been taken to a facility outside of the city. After talking to a medic (Benedict Wong), he goes to the facility where he meets a receptionist (Nina Wadia) whom he tries to charm but this time around, doesn't work.

Eventually, he talks to a doctor (Essie Davis) in the facility who revealed that Maria had violated Code 46 where the result was that she had an old finger replaced while everything she known for 10 days had been erased. With little memory of William, Maria is also unaware that she was pregnant before getting it terminated by the law that is stated in Code 46. Needing to return home, William learns through an airline check-in person (Archie Panjabi) that his traveling papers have been expired. With Maria, now out of the facility, she was able to get a fake paper for William as the two leave for Jebel Ali in the Middle East where her father used to live. Hoping to live a life outside of codes and everything, the two embark on a relationship as eventually, William's genetic connection to Maria would catch up with them as would the genetic law.

While the film isn't really a dystopian film or a sci-fi in traditional formats. Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce use these themes to convey a high-concept of how science can rule the land and also restrict certain laws. Similar to what Andrew Niccol's Gattaca had in terms of its plot. The film is really about a future where a man and woman couldn't fall in love due to the genetic similarities it has. While the film might be overwhelming to some audiences for its conceptual tone by Boyce's script. The film's love story and subsequent tone of alienation is well-written by Boyce as the characters are explored as well as the landscapes their in.

The direction of Winterbottom is superb in revealing this sense of alienation. Especially the locations that he uses throughout the film. While a traditional sci-fi film, even in Hollywood standards, would create sets, gadgets, and other things to make a film look and feel futuristic. Winterbottom instead, goes for an approach where it's the locations whether it's the airport, bridges, and skyscrapers in Shanghai to make the film look like it's the future. There's gadgets seen but they're similar to what people are using now.

It's just that Winterbottom approached it, as if he's making something low-budget. The scenes in Shanghai, notably the exterior sequences have a dream-like setting that is similar to not just the films of Wong Kar-Wai but also Sofia Coppola's 2003 classic Lost in Translation. The film doesn't take itself too seriously as Winterbottom creates a unique vision to his film.

Cinematographers Marcel Zyskind and Alwin H. Kuchler create a unique, dreamy look to the film's Shanghai sequences while more documentary-like, hand-held camera style that Winterbottom is known for is seen through the India section of the film. The camera work really signifies the different feel and look of the inside/outside world of the future. Production designer Mark Tidesley and art directors Mark Digby and Denis Schnegg creates wonderful sets and objects to convey the futuristic feel like the phones that are seen on screen to the memory diaries. Costume designer Natalie Ward doesn't go for an entirely futuristic feel but rather a look where the clothes look more like clothes seen in present time.

Editor Peter Christelis brings a nice, stylistic approach to the film's editing with use of jump-cuts and slow speeds to convey the emotions of the film and its characters. Sound editor Joakim Sundstrom and recordist Stuart Wilson add to that emotional, dreamy tone with the film's sound to convey that dystopian feel where everything feels a bit overcrowded and claustrophobic to the number of people talking and such. The film's score composed by David Holmes and Stephen Hilton is very haunting as its filled with dreamy, ambient-like tones to give that futuristic feel. The film's soundtrack features cuts ranging from Indian and Chinese music, Fatboy Slim, Coldplay, a cover of Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry, and a hilarious karaoke version of The Clash's Should I Stay Or Should I Go? sung by none other than Mick Jones of the Clash.

The film's cast is unique as it features memorable small performances from Essie Davis, Archie Panjabi, David Fahm, Jeanne Balibar, Taro Sherabayani, Benedict Wong, Nina Wadia, Shelley King, Togo Igawa as William's driver early in the film, Nabil Elouahabi as a vendor, and Nabil Massad as the Jebel Ali hotel owner. Om Puri is great as the charming, laid-back Bahkland, who is trying to watch everything in his company while being just as complex to William.

Tim Robbins is in brilliant form as William Geld. Without going into any kind of dramatic form of acting, Robbins brings a subtlety and wit to his role as an investigator who is attracted to his own suspect. The restraint Robbins give is wonderful as he has great chemistry with his co-star Samantha Morton. Morton is brilliant and complex as Maria Gonzalez as a woman with recurring dreams and her own ideals about the world. Morton also displays a grace and rawness that is rarely seen in film as she proves to be an enchantress on screen. She never gives a dull moment throughout the entire film.

While it's nowhere near some of Michael Winterbottom's films of the 2000s, Code 46 is still an enchanting and intoxicating film that includes great performances from Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton along with Frank Cottrell Boyce's high-concept script. While some of the film's science and political content might confuse audiences, the love story and dreamy tone does have something to offer. Still, the film shows what Michael Winterbottom could do in any type of genre where he goes for something unconventional rather than what is expected. In the end, Code 46 is a superb film from Michael Winterbottom and company.

Michael Winterbottom Films: (Rosie the Great) - (Forget About Me) - (Under the Sun) - (Love Lies Bleeding) - (Family (1993 TV film)) - (Butterfly Kiss) - (Go Now) - (Jude) - Welcome to Sarajevo - I Want You - (With or Without You (1998 film)) - Wonderland (1999 film) - The Claim - 24 Hour Party People - In This World - 9 Songs - Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story - The Road to Guantanamo - A Mighty Heart - Genova - The Shock Doctrine (2009 film) - The Killer Inside Me - The Trip (2010 film) - (Trishna) - (Everyday) - The Look of Love - (The Trip to Italy) - (The Face of An Angel)

© thevoid99 2012


Chip Lary said...

Good review. I also submitted a Code 46 review for the upcoming LAMB posts on Samantha Morton. The scene about an hour and 15 minutes in (overcoming conditioning) will definitely push people's buttons.

On a separate topic, I just wanted to let you know that for the last 2-3 weeks your blog has been taking a long time to render, relative to other blogs. It's around 45 seconds or so before it completes. Did you perhaps add a new widget around that time?

thevoid99 said...

I'm aware that I've been having a few loading problems. I really don't know how to add new widgets or anything. I don't know much about coding at all.

Plus, I'm still dealing with various Internet issues because AT&T are a bunch of assholes.

s. said...

Great review! I liked the movie but I think the best part of it was the gorgeous soundtrack.

thevoid99 said...

@Sati-Totally. I dig the music. BTW, did you spot Mick Jones' cameo singing his own song?