Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: December 28, 2004

"I am reporting a Code 46 violation.”

Film ***

I was surprised to learn that Code 46 wasn’t adapted from any type of classic science fiction story, especially one by the likes of Philip K. Dick. If Dick were to have ever written a commentary on illegal romance in the future, this result would end up something like this, if not close to it.

The screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce is one of a rare science fiction. Films in this genre that are concerned with ideas hardly ever get made. While this film doesn’t achieve the level of something like Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris, it does remain an effective piece.

The story is more in the vein of something like Gattaca, another favorite of mine in the genre. Set in a futuristic time, the story centers on William (Tim Robbins), a government investigator who is sent to Shanghai to investigate a series of fake “papelles”, which are special travel permits. Along the way, he has a chance encounter with a woman named Maria (Samantha Morton).

After getting to know her, William finds himself drawn to this woman, even though she is the culprit in the fake permit scheme. He connects with her in such a way that he hasn’t before with any other woman, including his wife. They share a passionate evening together, which can only last until his papelles expires, which is 24 hours.

When he returns to home in Seattle, William is haunted by memories of Maria and the time they had together. When the investigation is re-opened, he journeys back to Shanghai, eager to track down Maria. Once he does find her, he discovers that she has been accused of violating Code 46, which is a law stating that one genetic code cannot be mixed with that of another genetic code structure.

Once this code is broken, no further relationship can exist between William and Maria, since they each carry a different genetic code. The rest of the film involves William’s attempt to forego a forbidden romance with Maria, even under the watchful eye of the totalitarianistic government, known as the Sphinx, keeping close watch.

Video ****

The anamorphic picture on this release from MGM is that of a strikingly effective one, further enhancing the futuristic atmosphere provided by director Michael Winterbottom. Image is thoroughly clear and hugely detailed, with magnificent colors to boot. A strong presentation all the way.

Audio ***

Though Code 46 is a science fiction piece, it’s one driven by words rather than effects. However, the 5.1 mix provided does make the most of what’s around. Dialogue is delivered with utmost clarity, and the numerous set pieces provided in this futuristic setting provide some nice enough quality surround sound.

Features **

Included on this disc is a featurette titled “Obtaining Cover: Inside Code 46”, several deleted scenes, a trailer, and bonus trailers for several MGM releases.


Code 46 presents a revealing look at a new kind of future, where the simple act of love can result in horrendous consequences. Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton ignite a strong chemistry in this futuristic tale of forbidden love, which serves as a piece of social commentary about where we could be headed towards in the future.

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