Science fiction is a versatile genre. There can be adventure, romance, comedy and scientific exploration all present in one film. This is what makes science fiction such an interesting and rewarding genre to explore. But it also makes the genre hard to pull off correctly. Code 46 is a science fiction film that reaches for that versatility and falls a little bit short.
Code 46 is not a bad film. In fact I rather enjoyed getting wrapped up in the simple plot line that was fluffed out with great performances and a unique vision of the future. But it did not blow me away. I think the reason why was because so much of the future seemed incomplete. It felt like it was still a sketch on paper rather than a living universe on the screen. I know it is hard to completely realize a future world where for only one simple plot line, but that is what separates the mind-blowing movies from the only okay films. Movies like Gattaca or Primer hint at greatness and reveal complete visions while following something as simple as men traveling through time or space. Code 46 had the potential to be a Primer or a Gattaca if only there was enough time to fully understand it. If only there was one more pass to the script. If only… If only…
Like I said before, the plot line is simple. An investigator infected with an empathy virus goes Shanghai to investigate forged papers. He knows who did it right away, but covers up for her without really knowing why. She invites him out and they begin a love affair. But they cannot stay together because they are too genetically similar. They are violating a law called Code 46. Through twists and turns the couple reunites and runs away to a vague Middle Eastern town where there seems to be more freedom. They resume their love affair only to have it abruptly end. But is this real love or is this just a side effect of the empathy virus?
What makes this world unique is all of the genetic inbreeding. Although the main characters speak mostly English, they pepper their language with Spanish, French and other languages. Also despite the woman looking like an Irish wonder, her name is Maria Gonzalez and she lives in Shanghai. There are no more borders, no more artificial lines of race, creed or color. Everyone interacts together and lives together. But this comes with several consequences, mainly breeding factors. Before you have sex or marry you must test each other’s DNA so that you do not accidentally marry your sister or brother. There is so much in vitro fertilization going on that this is a distinct possibility. This is where Maria and her lover, William, get into trouble. They were pulled from the same egg.
There are individual scenes in the film that are fantastic. The director, Michael Winterbottom, really knows how to film a love scene. He takes care to keep the action on the woman’s face, not to focus on the man’s pleasure but rather hers even when her body rejects his love. He can also use music very effectively. I now want to revisit Coldplay’s first album purely for the ending scene of this film. But unfortunately the connecting scenes are boring, lackluster, or just come out of nowhere with no explanation. I wanted very much to love this film, but ended up only liking it. I guess like is still better than hate, right?