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Code 46 (January 1/05)

Here's a tough film to categorize. Code 46 is a futuristic drama that wavers between annoying pretentiousness and sheer brilliance.

The storyline involves an inspector (Tim Robbins) sent to investigate a mysterious death, where he meets a young factory worker (Samantha Morton) and begins an affair with her. Of course, this being a dystopian future, this kind of a dalliance is frowned upon by society and it's not long before the two find themselves on the run.

Director Michael Winterbottom packs Code 46 with some astounding visuals, aided by the use of odd-looking locations. The problem is, though, we're never really given any context for anything that exists in this future. Characters make reference to the "outside" and "inside" - a way of keeping the city separate from its surroundings, presumably - but the difference between the two is never mentioned. There are many other examples of this (including a problem with the sun that requires cars to be sprayed with some kind of liquid before venturing into the outdoors), and Winterbottom's refusal to explain the many innovations inherent in his vision of the future is baffling.

Still, there is a lot worth recommending about Code 46 - the performances by the two leads, for one. Robbins and Morton do a nice job of keeping things grounded, and turn their characters into incredibly sympathetic figures. The moody score by David Holmes perfectly complements Winterbottom's stark style, while the use of a Coldplay song in a pivotal sequence might just be the best use of a pop song in a movie ever.

The bottom line is that I really liked Code 46, though I'm not quite sure I fully understood it. After all, the titular Code 46 is referred to in the film and we're able to basically infer what it is - but we're never told exactly what it stipulates (which essentially sums up the maddening extent to which things are left unexplained).

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Code 46 with an expectedly flawless widescreen transfer, along with a few indistinct extra features. The disc includes a 17-minute fluff-piece that's packed with clips and is, as a result, not terribly informative. Four deleted scenes can also be found here, though none of them are terribly fascinating. Several bonus trailers are also available here (along with the film's trailer), and a sneak peek at Species III.