The Sixth Day
Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Rating: 6 out of 10
Adam Gibson has a problem. His daughter's dog has died unexpectedly and his wife wants him to run to the mall and clone the carcass before she gets back from school. Adam loves his daughter but disapproves of cloning. What to do?
The dilemmas surrounding cloning only get worse for Adam, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in The Sixth Day has rebounded from a series of flops to make a good movie.
Adam inhabits a world where, in addition to pets being cloned at the mall, refrigerators make grocery lists, cars drive themselves, and virtual girlfriends make flawless companions for lazy men.
He has mixed feelings about technology. A deliriously happy husband and helicopter pilot, he shuns his buddy's virtual girlfriend, but he is as excited as a little boy about a device that allows him to fly a helicopter away from the cockpit. At the local mall, considering cloning his dog, Adam runs into a crowd of protesters who tell him, "God doesn't want you to go in there." He replies: "Then God shouldn't have killed my dog."
During that same day, megalomaniac tycoon Jeremy Drucker, who has perfected (and secretly employed) human cloning technology despite a world-wide ban, hires Adam's company to take him to the mountains for a ski trip. There is an incident. Adam is accidentally cloned, pitting him against Drucker in a struggle for the truth and against his clone for his life and family.
The tone of the violence that ensues is light, as most of the evil characters get cloned whenever Adam kills them, allowing Schwarzenegger some funny lines. "I thought I killed you already." "Try to stay dead this time." "Doesn't anybody stay dead anymore?"
He even gets a chance to wink at his past, saying, "I might be back."
In the glory days of his career, Schwarzenegger delivered the line "I'll be back" with deadly resolve in the first Terminator (1984) installment, a film in which his outrageous physique made him the perfect cyborg hit man, and again in Predator (1987), in which he played a tough-as-steel commando.
Schwarzenegger seems to have hardly aged since those films, yet his most recent successes have come playing a very different character, a role only he can perform - that of the all-American middle-class family man with a thick Tuetonic accent and a sculptured body who is forced into (and finds himself fully capable of) becoming a one-man guerrilla army.
The Sixth Day's Adam Gibson is a naive, dreamboat of a husband one day, and the next a ruthless mercenary - an excellent shot, an adept bomb-maker, and a neck-wringer extraordinaire. The juxtaposition is held together by Schwarzenegger's on-screen presence. He has goofy charm at the outset, yet the action is believable because we've seen him doing it so many times before.
But what makes The Sixth Day better than recent Schwarzenegger films is that behind the action and charm is a decent plot, which, though formulaic, has surprises around every corner. It's not until the very end that we get to find out who cloned who, why and how.
The film is also soaked with clever extrapolations from present-day western consumer culture. Microsoft is planning to buy a state. Adam Gibson's mirror wishes him a happy birthday while he shaves and his refrigerator orders milk when the family runs out. When he reports to the police that he has been cloned, he is referred to a virtual attorney, and then a virtual psychologist.
While the movie brings nothing to a serious discussion of human cloning, this attention to detail lends weight to the film's opening titles, which tell us that a world where human cloning is possible is "somewhere in the near future...sooner than you think".
15. Jan 2001 at 0:00 | Matthew J. Reynolds