Code 46

on August 06, 2004 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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Michael Winterbottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo," "24 Hour Party People") continues to display his prodigious talents with another startlingly original movie, this time mining, quite successfully, the science fiction genre. Set in the near future, at a time when most of humanity is forced to live in designated zones, "Code 46" begins with a dream sequence voiced by Maria (Samantha Morton), a Shanghai factory worker. It's a dream that ends with her arrival at a mysterious, unclear destination. Soon after, William (Tim Robbins), an ace intelligence expert outfitted with an empathy virus that gives him mind-reading powers, arrives to investigate her workplace. Someone there is illegally making and selling 'papelles,' a combination passport/visa that allow their holders to leave their designated areas. When William and Maria fall for each other, they are forced to confront their mundane, controlled existences and, possibly, take a chance on something better.

Unlike "Minority Report" or the overblown world of "The Matrix," "Code 46" eschews flashy special effects in favor of strong characterizations and thoughtful extrapolation. What futuristic touches the film does possess are quietly, unobtrusively woven into the story, which renders them more effective than would otherwise be the case. Winterbottom's depiction of a dystopian, chillingly circumscribed future is utterly believable and logical and his dreamlike love story, graced with note-perfect performances by Robbins and Morton, is one of the most moving of the year. Like Ridley Scott's classic "Blade Runner," this is science fiction at its cinematic, provocative best. Starring Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton and Om Puri. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Produced by Andrew Eaton. An MGM release. Science Fiction. Not yet rated. Running time: 92 min

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