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The 6th Day

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The 6th Day

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Duvall
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
2 stars out of 4

A funny thing happened this Thanksgiving. A new slam-bang action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger opened and nobody seemed to notice. How could such an oversight occur? Perhaps the barrage of hype for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was so intense that it hypnotized filmgoers. Perhaps some fumes from the 1999 stink bomb, "End of Days," lingered around the big man's name. Or could it be that Arnold has simply entered the twilight of his film career?

I hope not. Oh sure, he can't act and he's a Republican, but how can you not love the big lug? Arnold Schwarzenegger is the embodiment of the American dream. A scrawny kid from a tiny European village achieves fame and fortune as a bodybuilder, then announces his intent to become a movie star. Everyone snickers at his ambitions, his cartoonish bulk, his gap-toothed grin and, of course, that accent. But Ah-nuld ignores the naysayers, becomes the most popular actor on the entire planet and marries into the Kennedy family. My God, you couldn't make up a story like that!

Of course, time spares no living creature, and the years are beginning to show on this Sequoia of a man. Schwarzenegger still does his action hero shtick in "The 6th Day," but his movements are more deliberate, betraying a certain creakiness. Even the bravado is muted. This time around, his most famous catch phrase gets amended as his character states "I might be back."

The aging of Schwarzenegger fits perfectly into "The 6th Day." Beneath its sci-fi trappings, the film addresses mortality and is far more thought provoking than one might expect.

Set in the near future, the story revolves around cloning. Arnold plays husband and father Adam Gibson, who runs a charter helicopter business with his partner Hank (Michael Rapaport). Shortly after consenting to a high-tech fingerprinting and eyesight testing procedure for a new client, Adam swaps a piloting gig with Hank without informing the passengers. Later, Adam returns home, only to spot his exact duplicate inside the house with his wife and daughter.

Adam learns that he was mistakenly cloned by cronies of genetic engineering tycoon Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn). While cloning of lower animals is allowed, the practice is strictly prohibited for humans. Since Adam is walking evidence of Drucker's lawbreaking, the pilot must be eliminated, leading to the sort of action expected in a Schwarzenegger movie.

As entertainment, "The 6th Day" falls in the middle of the Ah-nuld oeuvre, not as good as the "Terminator" films and "Total Recall," but better than a lot of his outings. Although the cloning particulars are extremely far fetched, most of the other near-future trappings seem refreshingly credible, not to mention fun. Hank has a holographic girlfriend so accommodating ("I've recorded all your favorite sporting programs," she coos, while straddling him and his sensory-stimulating love chair) that he has no desire for a real woman. Drivers can turn over the vehicle commands to programs that drive a pre-planned route. One of the Adams gleefully sneaks a stogie in the garage, defying a national ban on smoking. A police station allows suspects access to virtual-reality court-appointed attorneys and psychiatrists.

The futuristic stuff is a kick, but the notions raised by the cloning theme are much more interesting. In the story, an individual's memories and personality can be transferred to their fully-grown cloned body, which presents Adam with an ethical quandary. Initially, he wants to kill his clone, but then reconsiders. Even if Adam 2 is a duplicate, does that make him deserving of death? Dr. Griffin Weir (Robert Duvall), the scientist behind the process, faces his own dilemma when his gravely ill wife, Katherine (Wanda Cannon) begs him to stop cloning her and just let nature take its course.

I left with a number of questions. What if this procedure was possible in our world? Would I participate? Would downloading the contents of my brain into a new container let me attain a practical immortality, or would my soul get lost in the transfer, leaving a separate lifeform that only thinks it is I? Even if I could be sure that my soul would survive the transfer, should I do it? Yes, the procedure would allow my continued earthly survival, but what about the possibility of life after death? I would never be able to find out if our souls reunite with loved ones on a different plane of existence.

Pretty heady stuff for an Ah-nuld movie, eh? Here's a final (and frightening) thought. What if cloning is like photocopying and, each time you make a copy of a copy, the quality level goes down? And what if, at the upper echelons of our society, cloning has been going on for decades, with inferior fourth or fifth generation clones walking the streets right now? This, my friends, would finally explain George W. Bush, who recently claimed, in the type of phrasing that you would expect from a fifth generation clone, that people were "misunderestimating him." Think about it.

Copyright 2000 Edward Johnson-Ott

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