A sci-fi mood piece about memory, passion, and pseudo-Oedipal longing, Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46 – akin to THX 1138-via-Gattaca – is long on atmosphere but short on substance. In the near-future, national and racial differences have melted away in a sea of multicultural sterility, civilization has been divided into desirable urban areas and the barren “outside,” and the government closely regulates sexual intercourse so as to prevent violations of Code 46, a law forbidding people with similar genetic make-ups to procreate. In this Big Brother environment, a married detective named William (Tim Robbins) – bestowed with psychic abilities thanks to an “empathy virus” (the film’s symbolic means of equating emotion and illness) – is sent to Shanghai to investigate the theft of coveted temporary passports called “papelles.” William quickly deduces that the culprit is Maria Gonzales (Samantha Morton), a doe-eyed woman who he immediately falls in love with and allows to go free, but their ensuing one-night stand becomes complicated by a shared DNA history. Winterbottom’s film is a luxurious sight to behold, a sleek, electric vision of glittering metropolis skylines and expansive desert vistas, and the ennui-infected ambiance of these locales is infused with a touching melancholy by the Free Association’s score. Unfortunately, while Code 46 elegantly conveys the comforts of ignorance and the pain of memory, its central romance – doomed, in part, by Robbins and Morton’s lack of chemistry – rarely generates a spark. “Tell me something about yourself,” is what William requests before reading people’s minds. Yet the ultimate problem with this allegory of encroaching government control – peppered with hot-topic buzzwords about corporations, checkpoints, and terrorism – is that it never says anything enlightening about our current heightened-security society.