Code 46 - DVD Review

'[one scene is obviously] intended to be director Michael Winterbottom's 'love conquers all' moment but had about as much feeling and tenderness in it as an armed assault'

I watched this having seen it suggested during a series of reviews from A Life In Equinox, focusing on films recommended by readers with the caveat being that they were underrated and under-seen: the aptly-titled 'Great Movies Nobody Saw' series. I remember seeing the posters for it when it first came out but, like a lot of films suggested for the list, I also remember it slipping silently away without making much noise. It was suggested by Fletch from Blog Cabins (his analysis)and bearing in mind that the other films on the list were all pretty high quality, hopes were high.

A shame then that I really did not like Code 46, in fact, I thought it was bordering on awful.

The central crux of the film revolves around Tim Robbin's investigative agent falling in love with Samantha Morton's criminal, the latter producing fake 'papelles' to allow outsiders to enter a near-future Shanghai, or other locations around the globe that they wish to travel to. As any watcher of a film involving romance will tell you; it is absolutely crucial that you believe in the central or peripheral love stories featured therein and in this case, I simply didn't. To me, Morton and Robbins were miss-matched in the extreme and not for one second did I see them as realistically in love. Their interactions were cold and lifeless, their on-screen chemistry none-existent and their dramatic range zero. I think Morton and Robbins are both good actors but what they excel at, especially in Robbins' case, is playing themselves; really, did we see anything to suggest that Code 46's William is anything more than Shawshanks' Andy, free and a number of years into the future? Whether or not they were miss-matched on purpose is irrelevant; the love angle of the story, around which everything else pivoted, simply wasn't there.

It didn't help matters that I also found some aspects of the story to be morally muddy. William is able to fall in love with Morton's Maria because he has taken an 'empathy virus', a drug basically allowing him to read minds and influence people. As chat up lines go it's fairly convincing but eminently creepy and things don't get much better. Further in to the film, Maria also finds herself under the influence of a 'virus' which looks set to effect the couple's relationship. The resultant method of overcoming the drug's effect is, I'm sure, intended to be director Michael Winterbottom's 'love conquers all' moment but had about as much feeling and tenderness in it as an armed assault. Despite it's other faults it was this scene that best summed up Code 46's failings for me; it was misjudged, ill-explained and as mentioned, morally confused at best.

Shot in a very ambient way with modern electro-melodies framing many of the shots Winterbottom creates, you can't fault Code 46 for creating a brave new world in it's own image. It's just a shame then, that the world doesn't have a compelling, believable or, crucially, romantic, story to go with it.

Look Further...

'at times in the story I feel Boyce is more concerned with the world than the characters, often holding off on tension to allow William to explain his "virus" for the 3rd or 4th time' - A Life In Equinox (Ryan Helms), 6.50/10


  1. 1 star? Wow I figured you would have at least gone to the 2 range. Interesting. I've found this movie sadly very forgettable, despite what it tries to do.

  2. I honestly thought it was awful. I don't think it acheived anything that it set out to do on a thematic or plot-based level. I thought the take on what the future world would be like was interesting and well realised in an under-the-skin, subversive, way but its failings elsewhere were too big to make that a redeeming feature.