April 26, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Code 46

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Code 46

Today's movie: Code 46, 2003 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Well, first, because I've been on something of a Michael Winterbottom kick lately -- I've now seen six of this inventive British director's seventeen features (including 9 Songs and The Killer Inside Me) and decided recently that I want to see more, meaning that you're going to see yet more films of his showing up here over the coming months; and then second, because it's recently been a topic of conversation between myself and local author Mark R. Brand, concerning how this low-budget sci-fi film very successfully achieves the same kind of "casual futuristic" feel that Brand's new novella for CCLaP, Life After Sleep, tries for too.

The reality: Another winner! And that's due mostly to what I just mentioned, of how Winterbottom takes his existing love for world travel and combines it with a smart script and minimalist locations to achieve a look that says, "This story takes place in a world you mostly understand already, just with a few jarringly speculative details thrown in." In this case, it's a world where millions of people now start life via in-vitro fertilization, derived from a finite amount of genetic stock from a finite amount of labs, which now makes it a very real possibility for people to accidentally have kids with complete strangers who nonetheless share 25 or 50 percent of their DNA, resulting in the same kind of mongoloid defects you get from traditional inbreeding. And that's led to the titular code, which essentially gives governments the right to abort any baby made from such a coupling (for the baby's own good, they argue, one of many ethical quagmires from our own times that the film raises), and to even sterilize the couple if it's proven that they knew they were genetically related but had a baby anyway.

And indeed, about the only complaint I have about this film is that Winterbottom never really explores any issues away from this concept (all of it explained in the first 30 seconds of the actual movie, which is why it's not a spoiler), but rather tells only the tale of a couple who are guilty of it, a fascinating situation that underscores Winterbottom's points, in which an American insurance investigator meets an Irish blue-collar worker (the one guilty of stealing IDs from the place where she works, to give to radical liberals trying to sneak into one off-limits place or another) at an Indian-owned factory in China, inexplicably drawn to each other the first day they meet and ending up having a passionate one-night-stand (filmed in its entirety and taking up a good 45 minutes of the actual movie itself, shot in the highly improvised "mumblecore" style that Winterbottom is so known for), which is where all the trouble starts. In the meanwhile, then, the film explores such issues as designer viruses that enhance natural abilities for temporary periods, "clean buildings" with antibiotic atmospheres that kill such viruses, and a dozen other futuristic concepts that in reality are actually ripped from today's headlines, which in good sci-fi style gives Winterbottom the chance to explore political issues important to us but in a stylized, symbolic way. Anyone who likes Mark's book will be sure to love this as well; and of course if you've already seen the movie and liked it, I encourage you to check out Mark's book too if you still haven't.

Strangest piece of trivia: Yes, that really is Mick Jones of The Clash singing "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" in that scene at the karaoke club (and even getting the lyrics wrong).

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:44 AM, April 26, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |