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Code 46 (2003)

A futuristic Brief Encounter (1945), this is a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.
4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Tim Robbins ... William Geld
Togo Igawa ... Driver
Nabil Elouahabi ... Vendor
Samantha Morton ... Maria Gonzales
Sarah Backhouse Sarah Backhouse ... Weather Girl
Jonathan Ibbotson Jonathan Ibbotson ... Boxer
Natalie Mendoza ... Sphinx Receptionist
Om Puri ... Bahkland
Emil Marwa Emil Marwa ... Mohan
Nina Fog ... Wole
Bruno Lastra ... Bikku
Christopher Simpson ... Paul
Lien Nguyin Lien Nguyin ... Singer in Nightclub
David Fahm David Fahm ... Damian Alekan
Jeanne Balibar ... Sylvie


This movie is a love story set in a Brave New World-type near-future where cities are heavily controlled and only accessible through checkpoints. People cannot travel unless they have "papeles" (papers in Spanish; words and sentences in many languages, especially Spanish, French, and Chinese are mixed with English in this new world), a special travel permit issued by the totalitarian government, the "Sphinx". Outside these cities, the desert has taken over and shanty towns are jammed with non-citizens - people without IDs forced to live primitive lives. William Geld (Tim Robbins) is a family man who works as a government investigator. When he is sent to Shanghai to solve a case of fake IDs, he meets a woman named Maria Gonzales (Samantha Morton). Although he realizes she is behind the forgeries, he cannot help but fall completely in love with her. He hides her crime and they have a wild, passionate affair that can only last as long as his visa: twenty-four hours. Back home, William is...

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Can a single moment ever disappear completely? See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of sexuality, including brief graphic nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The dialogue is peppered with words from several different languages. This creates a feeling of a more amalgamated world. See more »


The numerous seeming "errors in geography" are actually an intentional artistic choice. Because the film is set in a future where global cultures have become thoroughly merged, Michael Winterbottom purposely blended footage shot in Shanghai, Dubai and Rajastahn so that Shanghai has a desert outside it, etc. See more »


[first lines]
Title Card: code 46 / article 1 / any human being who shares the same nuclear gene set as another human being is deemed to be genetically identical. the relations of one are the relations of all. / due to IVF, DI embryo splitting and cloning techniques it is necessary to prevent any accidental or deliberate genetically incestuous reproduction. / therefore: / i. all prospective parents should be genetically screened before conception. if they have 100%, 50% or 25% genetic identity, they are not...
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Crazy Credits

There is a looped animation running next to the names during the final credits. It shows a variety of things, including chromosomes, chromosome replication, and chemical structures. See more »


Should I Stay or Should I Go
Written by Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Topper Headon (uncredited) and Paul Simonon (uncredited)
Published by Nineden Limited Administered by Universal Music
Performed by Mick Jones
Arranged by Josh Hyams and Mark Revell
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User Reviews

Innovative and subtle
25 August 2005 | by evilspacemanSee all my reviews

Code 46: Innovative and subtle In Code 46 Michael Winterbottom continues to confound and mystify audiences in this bizarre sci-fi romance set in the not too distant future. What's most commendable about the film is its social critique, which is a subtle yet poignant criticism of the so-called freedoms of a free market capitalist society. As with 9 Songs this is a film with an acerbic social commentary reflective possibly of Winterbottoms Marxist or anti-establishment leanings.

Code 46 is set in a world in which nation states have been replaced by a central administration known as the 'Sphinx'. As with Gattaca or Clockwork Orange this film is based on a timeless paranoia of big government and its impact on social liberties. Other compelling analogies suggest this is a reference to the curtailing of personal freedoms in the 'War against Terror', whilst others recall the strong resonance between Code 46 and the indifference of the west to the plight of refugees. Nevertheless this author felt that the central premise of Code 46 was something other than this. The film essentially deals with the paradoxical nature of freedom and choice. The fictitious society in which it is set is not, as some people have called it, a 'post-apocalyptic' one, rather a parallel or distant version of our own reality in which the rampant commodification of human genes has created the necessity to impinge upon some basic and intrinsic individual freedoms. Code 46 was a savage onslaught against the ideological premise of economic rationalism and the cult of individualism so endemic in contemporary society. In an age where democracy and freedom have been substituted for free markets, consumer choice and rampant materialism Winterbottom throws it back in our faces and asks: is this what you really want? The parallels between this and his other work 9 Songs (which incidentally was made after 46) is unmistakable. Yet Code 46 is a far more exceptional film in that it carries a more readily accessible didactic about modern life. Even so 9 Songs and 46 are unrepentantly abstract, contrived and provocative, both in terms of the moving picture medium and also its dissident social commentary; though the latter is often underrepresented in critical assessments of Winterbottom's work. Equally, he is a brazen romanticist whose work is unapologetically sentimental and yet so cynical, 'edgy' and aloof at the same time (i.e. the recurring duality of innocence versus guilt, gratification versus selflessness etc.).

Code 46 is a sensitive and beautifully subtle film, but it suffered (in part) from some callous editing which served to undermined its overall constitution. First and foremost the length of the film should be shortened by a good ten to twenty minutes (the DVD release has in fact reduced it by almost 5 minutes). Novelty turns to boredom as the plot begins to loiter unnecessarily towards the latter stages. Nevertheless this 'placidity' is perhaps what fans of Winterbottom have come to expect and appreciate about his style of narration. And whilst there is an understated, refreshing quality about the slowness, its far too *unconventional* for the pallet of most moviegoers. One other aspect the director will have to reconsider in future ventures is the dialogue (and this applies to both 46 and 9 songs). Fans may find the language 'real', 'unobtrusive' and 'unpretentious', but others will find it annoying and difficult to follow (those who have seen 9 Songs will most likely understand the nature of this criticism). There is an almost satirical naiveté about the way people express themselves (though in all fairness it's not the director that should be blamed for this but the scriptwriter). This author found the dialogue frigid and unrealistic and it was perhaps this intolerance that ultimately fissured into a general detachment from the story and its characters.

But despite this, there is a distinct possibility- based on his current works- that Michael Winterbottom will be remembered as one of the most innovative filmmakers of our time. It remains to be seen if this bold prediction materialises.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

17 September 2004 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Code 46 See more »


Box Office


$7,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$20,170, 8 August 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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