Sci-Fi Friday: ‘Code 46’ (2003).

Can you miss someone you don’t remember?

-Maria Gonzales, Code 46.

A lot of stuff tends to blow up in sci-fi films. Have you noticed that? There are infinite possibilities in science fiction for exploring humanity and our relationship with technology are endless. But we can’t seem to do it without blowing shit up. In some of my favorite sci-fi films, nothing blows up. Can you even imagine?

Code46_01I didn’t get to see Code 46 on the big screen. It might not have been possible, where I lived, to find it in a theater. I distinctly remember reading a review of it and wishing I could go see it. But I never did, and I have to believe there was a good reason, and that it wasn’t because I was lazy. Who knows?

Anyway, a couple years later, the DVD showed up on the sales rack at the video store. Personally, I prefer watching movies in my living room. It always sounds good, I can pause it if I need to use the bathroom, and if anyone is talking or spouting out pointless trivia while the movie’s playing, it’s usually just me. And I can handle that.


Code 46 has a kind of low-budget-future aesthetic, accomplished by shooting in such places as contemporary Shanghai and Dubai. The film doesn’t rely on CGI backdrops featuring physics-defying skyscrapers. And there are no set-pieces involving flying car-chases or pitched battles between the bad guys and robotic cops. Maybe that’s why it didn’t do so well at the box-office.

Code46_03The film explores a society where genetic engineering has been perfected. An example: one of the main characters, fraud investigator William Geld (the very tall Tim Robbins) uses a genetically-engineered Empathy Virus in his work, infecting himself to gain a heightened instinct about the people he investigates.

Code46_02The “Code 46” in the title refers to the law dealing with the possibility of genetically-identical citizens getting together and creating offspring. Such a code is necessary because of all the cloning and in vitro stuff that is common in their society. In his investigations, he meets and falls in love with forger Maria Gonzalez (the very lovely Samantha Morton), whose DNA turns out to be 50% identical to his own. What’s a fraud investigator to do? And what’s an authoritarian government to do when they find out about their little affair?

Along with the main characters, Code 46 also features a few more familiar faces. Keep an eye out for Benedict Wong, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Mick Jones from The Clash. But if you’re expecting lots of shit to explode, you’re out of luck. Give it a chance anyway, and I’ll see you next time.

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