Monday, February 8, 2016

CODE 46 (2003) (Blu-ray Review)

CODE 46 (2003)
Label: Olive Films
Release Date: February 16th 2016
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0
1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Michael Winterbottom

Cast: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton, Jeanne Balibar,, Om Puri, Nina Fog

Code 46 is a forbidden love story masquerading as a small scope science fiction film, set in a dystopian future where the government stringently controls human-breeding based on genetic compatibility. If a couple are too closely linked genetically they are forbidden from having children together, this is what is known as a Code 46 violation, from which the movie takes it's name.

Into this future we have a government investigator William Geld played by Tim Robbins (The Player), who is sent to Shanghai from Seattle to investigate a case of passport forgery committed by a young woman named Maria Gonzalez played by Samantha Morton (A.I. Artificial Intelligence). Perhaps fueled by an empathy virus he's been infected with William  falls heads over heel for the woman he's investigating in a short 24-hour period, together they embark on a whirlwind romance, with him covering up her crime, before heading back to Seatte the next day, home to his wife and child.

Once he returns he cannot forget her, and when the case is re opened after a death he is sent back to Shanghai to finish the investigation. There he tracks down Maria to a medical facility where she been given an abortion for a Code 46 violation, additionally she has had all memories of her encounter with William erased, which sort of brought to mind Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, but on  whole other dystopian future levels, these are government sponsored mind-wipes and abortion, scary stuff.

I love these small scope sci-fi movies, this one in particular presents quite a few themes and threads which are brought to the screen rather matter-of-factly and without the burden of a lot of over explanation about the how and why of things, which might bother some but I liked. It portrays the one-world of the future as ethnically diverse, there's a lot of language cross-pollination, which is another a nice touch. Visually the movie imagines the brave-new-world as nothing too extraordinary, this is grounded in a reality not too dissimilar from our own, peppered with stylish and slightly futuristic aesthetic, with walled-in cities for the privileged citizens and very basic shanty towns on the outside where criminals are exiled.

Robbins comes across as a bit tired or bland in the role of the philandering investigator, it sort of reminded me of Bill Murray in Lost in Translation by way of Gattaca. I think this is a choice, not a ding on his performance by any means. Samantha Morton is desirable as the forger and love interest of the story, I can see the appeal for Robbins character, she is a mysterious and attractive young woman, Morton is a strong actress with a undeniable presence. Like Robbins she pays it a bit subdued, though there's a lot of depth just below the surface of her character, who also narrates the story. I have not seen a ton of her stuff but f you would like to see her boil over in a seething performance check her out in the thriller The Harvest from director John McNaughton, in which she is straight-up terrifying. 

The disc from Olive Films presents the film with a pleasing 1080p transferred framed in the scope aspect ratio. Colors are strong and nicely saturated, skin tones look good all the way around. The disc comes with only the option to view the movie with an English language DTS-HD Stereo 2.0 option, with no subtitles. The dialogue is crisp and clean, and the evocative score from David Holmes sounds just fine, but I do wish they would have carried over the surround audio option from the DVD. 
The only extras on the disc is a trailer for the movie, not carried over from the 2004 DVD are a selection of deleted scene and the "Obtaining Cover: Inside Code 46" featurette, so if you are upgrading you may want to hold onto the DVD.

The movie has a haunting quality about it, the ending particularly sad and thought provoking, which caught me by surprise since most science fiction movies don't have much of emotional impact on me, but that is why I say this is a love story wrapped in the trappings of a sci-fi film, at the core this is a story about forbidden love in a cold future world. If a mash-up of Lost in Translation and Gattaca sounds like good time to you I think you will enjoy this one. 3/5