The 6th Day

Human genetic engineering is inevitable: given the prevalence of both infectious and inherited diseases, it's either allowing germ-line gene therapy (which is currently illegal) or having a bottleneck population prone with defective genes. (With it, of course, comes also the ability to alter other traits.) Human cloning (which doesn't even really require an understanding of the human genome) may also well be inevitable, but most people misunderstand what genetic cloning is all about: we current probably have the technological means to clone humans currently, but that's akin to creating a twin (who will be significantly younger, directly proportional to one's age). It is beyond our technological capabilities to grow the clone at such a rapid rate that the physical aging is the same, and also to transfer all our memories (i.e., the complex network of interactions that comprises the "mind") into such a clone.

That's the kind of cloning that occurs in The 6th Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger's new thriller and one of the best action movies I've seen in a long time. The title is based on the law (and a reference to god creating man on the sixth day) that bans human cloning after a disastrous experiment (which you can expect with the first attempts at human genetic engineering or cloning). But a failed experiment doesn't stop Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) and Weir (Robert Duvall) from going ahead and perfecting their methods, and soon enough, not only are they able to produce cloned "blanks" that are phenotypically similar to the people whose genetic material is their blueprint, but whose memories can also be programmed. Drucker and Weir use an organ-replacement mega-corporation as the cover for their god-like ambitions of allowing people (they particularly care about) to live perpetually.

When Drucker is killed by an anti-cloning activist on an adventure outing, his clone takes over (this isn't the first time). Since he believes Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) and his co-pilot Hank (Michael Rapaport) were killed with him, they're also "restored" through their clones. But what Drucker doesn't realise is that Adam opted out of the helicopter flight at the last minute and went about his life as usual resulting in a situation with two Adam Gibsons. The newly cloned Adam returns home to find the original and mayhem ensues as the clone sets out uncovering the truth, threatening Drucker's empire.

At this point, the movie becomes a straight-forward action film featuring two Schwarzeneggers both fighting to save their own lives and the lives of those they love from Drucker and his henchmen (who are virtually indestructible since their clones keep coming back). The action is standard Arnold-fare and is a delight to watch. Nothing he does is really that over-the-top and is more in the Terminator and Total Recall vein (as opposed to the The Matrix and Mission: Impossible kind).

The acting is pretty good: Schwarzenegger tough-guy role is clearly carrying the film but he gets to use his comedic talents to generate humour effectively. It's amusing to me that Schwarzenegger as an actor has clearly become so Americanised but yet his trademark accent is still prominent. The actors playing all the villains, particularly Tony Goldwyn, are pretty good also.

The 6th Day takes its time initially outlining what the immediate future has in store for us: remote controlled helicopters, intelligent kitchen appliances, virtual holograms that satisfy your every need, simulated friends (which are downright creepy), and pets that can be replaced through cloning. As I say above, the kind of cloning depicted is quite far beyond us, primarily because "reprogramming" the brain is non-trivial due to its complexity. Yet cloning of tissue and genetic engineering of offspring is possible. The movie uses a device called a "syncorder" to explain the memory transfer, but does nothing to explain how the full-mature "blanks" are produced.

The basic premise of the film, the idea of death being something that one must fear and must try to get around at all costs, is something I can't really relate to. This is a view that pervades our society, but yet without death there is no life, and there's always something that "lives on" (in other words, there is nothing to fear).

The 6th Day is both a fun and thought-provoking film, eye as well as mind candy. Worth the full price of admission.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||