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Code 46 (2004)
Director: Michael Winterbottom

review by Debbie Moon

In a future where the insurance risk you present controls your destiny, and those who present the worst risks are banished to Third World hinterlands, papers that prove you're covered are the most valuable thing on Earth. William (Tim Robbins) is a semi-psychic investigator sent to investigate fake papers in Shanghai, but falls in love with the forger, Maria (Samantha Morton). But there are other pressures on this society: in a world where assisted contraception is commonplace, the gene-pool is diminishing, and strict laws keep apart those who may unwittingly be genetically related. William and Maria have transgressed 'Code 46', and it seems there's nowhere in the world where they can be together...

Maverick director Winterbottom's film does for this future dystopia what Alien did for interstellar travel - makes it gritty, logical, and utterly believable. There are no dictators or brainwashed masses: in a crowded, international society, the rules are sensible, understandable - and completely inhumane. It's also one of the few science fiction films to acknowledge that most of the world is not white and English-speaking. With strong attention to detail, Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce have created one of the most fascinating and convincing global futures on film.

As the only characters that have more than two or three scenes, Robbins and Morton carry the weight of the whole film, and their mismatched, awkward relationship is convincing precisely because it's so unlikely. The only thing that undermines it is the fact that Morton is giving - or being directed to give - the same 'angelic waif' performance as in Minority Report, and you can't help but feel that it fitted better there than here.

Code 46 is science fiction for the thinking audience: inventive, witty, powerful without being pretentious, and bound to linger in your mind for a long time.
Code 46

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