Code 46 is a pretty spectacular film by Michael Winterbottom starring Tim Robbins as an investigator in the near-future (or alternative present) who uses "empathy" (essentially a form of high-tech mindreading) to figure out who has been smuggling forged identity chips out to the lower classes in a desert city called "Shanghai." He meets and falls for Samantha Morton (genius star of Morvern Callar and Minority Report), and finds himself covering for her when he determines that she's the culprit.
Code 46 manages on a very low budget the extraordinary task of creating a desolate futuristic world out of the present. It's most obvious stylistic antecedent is Goddard's Alphaville, in which modern Paris stands in for the city of the future. It's a weird, sad film about lonely alienated people, blending a kind of THX 1138 sterility with a postmodern glass and steel iciness in an ozone-hole world.
I used the term "spectacular" because it's the word that came to me most strongly when the film was over. The film isn't spectacular in the "spectacle" sense; in fact it's a rather low-key and detatched work. What's spectacular, to me, is Winterbottom and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce's extraordinary control over tone and rhythm. Code 46 is spectacular in the manner of a Bresson film or a De Chirico painting.
Director Winterbottom is on my hero list for the ascerbically jaunty 24 Hour Party People, a free-wheeling film about the rise of Manchester's legendary Factory Records which, in it's heyday, produced killer acts like Joy Division and Happy Mondays. 24 Hour Party People was also written by Boyce, and it's astonishing to see two such 180-degree opposite works come from the same creative minds. I'd definitely put Winterbottom on my list of directors to watch, and I look forward to checking out some of his earlier collaborations with Boyce, like Welcome to Sarajevo and The Claim.