The sleek yet scruffy future-noir Code 46 is blessed with so many of the qualities common to director Michael Winterbottom's films -- natural, improvisational performances, an elegant visual scheme, a humanist world view -- that it seems unfair to fault it for its one fatal deficit: a glaring lack of chemistry between its star-crossed leads. It's an insurmountable problem, however, in a story that preaches the importance of love and emotion in an Orwellian world of forbidden relationships. Fine actors in their own right, Samantha Morton and Tim Robbins are fatally miscast as lovers doomed as much by their positions in society as they are by genetic coding. Not only is their passion quotient is dangerously low, but the two performers' age and -- it has to be said -- height disparities only add to their oil-and-water chemistry. There's little sense of risk or loss when it becomes clear that their love is a state-sanctioned crime. But what a state it is: Winterbottom's subtle, realist vision of the near-future (shot mostly in present-day Shanghai) is at once fantastic and utterly mundane, and, as usual, all of his technical choices -- editing, shooting, sound design -- are impeccable. In many ways, Code 46 is another feather in the maverick director's cap, but coming off the career hat trick of The Claim, 24 Hour Party People, and In This World, it can only be seen as a disappointment. After its Gala premiere at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival, Code 46 was released stateside in the summer of 2004.
by Michael Hastings review