Synopsis: In a near future, in a world ruled by a totalitarian government, checking of the genetic code is mandatory for any type of possible relationship between man and woman. The investigator from Seattle William travels to Shanghai to investigate the faking and stealing of special Visas (called using the Spanish word “papeles”). The main suspect is Maria Gonzales, who works in the company Sphinx, but William falls in love for her and protects her. They have a passionate one night stand, and sooner they find that they are genetically incompatible to each other and they have violated the Code 46.



My favorite movie of 2003 was far and away Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46. The film is set 15 minutes into a strange future where human cloning has given rise to a law prohibiting people to have sexual relations with anyone who might contain the same genes and DNA as you. The chances are incredibly slim that you might end up falling in love with, say, a second or third generation clone of your mother, but since it can happen, there’s a law against it. If, by some coincidence, you and your lover are genetically the same and you both knowingly sexually engage with one another and produce offspring, that is a crime, severely punishable by law, and you just don’t want to go there because it’s creepy to begin with, right?

Code 46 stars Tim Robbins as an insurance investigator named William who’s been infected with an empathy virus that allows him to read anyone’s thoughts. He travels to Shanghai to investigate a passport agency where some forged passports are being shifted out into the wild. William immediately knows that a woman named Maria (Samantha Morton) who works at the agency is guilty of the crime, but he feels a strange, unexplainable and intimate connection to her, and so he lies and allows her to go free. It’s the first time he’s ever lied on the job, and instead of feeling guilty about it, he plunges into her world for the next 12 hours and falls in love with her, and she with him.

This sets the course of plot: William goes home, but can’t get Maria out of his mind. When his boss tells him that he screwed up and accused the wrong person of the crime committed in Shanghai, he’s ordered to go back and clean up his mess, but when he gets back, his first order of business is to reconnect with Maria and deal with the problem, but he finds that she’s been arrested and quarantined because of a Code 46 violation. As it turns out, she became pregnant with his offspring, and when it was revealed that they were genetically tied to one another, she was taken to the outside world (remember, this is a strange, almost apocalyptic Earth where there are those who live “inside” and those who are cast out into the wastelands) to start her life over. William, throwing his whole life away to find Maria, risks everything to first locate her, then start a new life with her, despite the Code 46 mandate. With the authorities hunting them down and an uncertain, perilous future spread out before them, will William and Maria find a happy ending, or will they be captured and prosecuted?

An instantly unique and fascinating science fiction love story, Code 46 is unique unto itself. It’s a gorgeous looking film, with strange themes, poignant, intimate performances, and an afterglow that spreads throughout your mind and heart after watching it. I’ve watched it three times (the first time was when it was theatrically released), and the brand new blu ray from Olive Films does the film justice, both visually and aurally. It’s a nice upgrade from the MGM DVD released in 2004, but sadly there aren’t any special features, which seems to be a thing with Olive. I love some of the films Olive has put out on blu ray, but unfortunately they just don’t do special features.


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About the Author

david j. moore

david j. moore is the author of World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies and the upcoming book The Good, the Tough and the Deadly: Action Movies and Stars, coming April, 2016 from Schiffer Publishing.