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The 6th Day, written by Cormac Wibberly and Marianne Wibberly, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, 2000, 120 min.

The 6th Day is a mildly thoughtful movie about cloning which features two Arnold Schwarzeneggers. The prospect of two Arnolds might be too much for some people, but fans of the big guy will be cheering. The movie is the kind of hybrid that at first seems unworkable, thinking and action together, and the movie only partially succeeds at either. However, The 6th Day at least attempts to have some depth, more than can be said for what usually passes as science fiction in movies recently. The filmmakers have also put considerable thought into the day-to-day details of the future, and convey what things might be like in a few years far more convincingly than, say, AI. Yes, parts of The 6th Day resolve into the usual action movie nonsense, but the movie as a whole is more interesting than I was expecting.

Arnold is Adam Gibson, a pilot for an adventure company, married with a little girl, and under pressure from his wife to clone their daughter's deceased pet, at RePet, before the girl can find out. That morning at work, he is slated to take a billionaire, Michael Drucker, up for a ride, but his friend does so instead. Thus begins a fateful series of events; Drucker is the head of a company involved in the illegal cloning of humans, so he is the target of a lot of hate and he also has a lot of resources (such as his own team of bad guys). To cover up the disastrous events on the flight that day, Drucker clones Gibson, not knowing that it was not Gibson who was killed. And so there are two Arnolds: "You cloned the wrong man!" The movie becomes a struggle between one man and a giant corporation in a time when the little guy has even less of a chance.

Arnold plays Gibson as the everyman, which is reasonably credible even though he defeats the same bad guys over and over again as they are cloned. He does try to play against type. Consider this line: "My little girl--I don't want to expose her to any graphic violence. She gets enough of that from the media." Arnold's family does not get many lines but they are well portrayed. Arnold's sidekick, his fellow pilot, provides a lot of the comic business of the movie, particularly with a favoured virtual girlfriend. Drucker is a hissable villain, calm under crisis, arrogant in his wealth, and quite convinced that it's OK for him to break the laws against human cloning (the so-called 6th day laws). Drucker gets his comeuppance though, in the form of some bad treatment from his clone when he himself is not dead yet. The scientist who is the brains of Drucker's operation is played by Robert Duvall, and Duvall gives a nice performance as the shortsighted genius, a man who is smart in science but relatively ignorant about the implications of what he is doing (or his likely fate once the work is done).

The 6th Day has a few plot holes along the way. The process of cloning is jiggered out of shape, probably to keep the story moving: blank bodies are grown, which can be injected with DNA and memories to create a clone in a short time. The memories are captured by Syncording the subject's brain (which is what is happening to Arnold with those round metal things in front of his eyes on all the movie posters), and Syncording works in reverse to add that brain snapshot to the blank. Such a process is probably too advanced for the society portrayed in the movie. Another plot hole is how the cloned bad guys seem to remember their deaths, even when the Syncording is taken before dying. Not possible, but at least the characters know that this shouldn't be happening.

The 6th Day is not high on the list of movies I recommend to my friends, but it is better than might be expected. Fans of thoughtful science fiction movies might want to check it out, if they have no objection to the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

DVD Note: The 6th Day was originally released on DVD in an edition that had virtually no extra features; it has since been released in a fancier 2-DVD edition. On the expanded DVD: an audio commentary by the composer of the movie's score, Trevor Rabin; a made-for-TV promotional special that seems useless if you've just watched the movie; a set of 9 different featurettes that examine various aspects of the movie; some storyboard comparisons; stills; and filmographies. The 6th Day would probably have been fine with only the 1-DVD release, as the extra features on the second DVD have to stretch pretty far to justify themselves. This is a passable movie but not a great one.


First posted: November 22, 2001; Last modified: February 20, 2004

Copyright © 2001-2004 by James Schellenberg (james@jschellenberg.com)


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