The 6th Day (2000)
“You’ve cloned the wrong man”
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn
Synopsis: Futuristic action about a man who meets a clone of himself and stumbles into a grand conspiracy about clones taking over the world.
Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has one of those annoyingly perfect lives that no Hollywood movie can possibly allow to continue unhindered by some sizeable spanner in the works. He lives with his loving and still sexy wife, whom screenwriters Cormac and Marianne Wibberley somehow refrained from naming Eve, plumping instead for Natalie (Wendy Crewson), and a perfectly behaved young daughter, Clara (Taylor Anne Reid), and runs a thriving helicopter piloting business with his business partner Hank Morgan (Michael Rapaport). Perhaps the only source of friction within this perfect family unit is the fact that their elderly dog is just about ready to head for that big kennel in the sky, and Adam is a little wary of having him cloned (The 6th Day is set in the not-too-distant future) as his wife and daughter would like.
The business has just won a contract to fly billionaire high-tech whizz-kid Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) to some snowy location. This contract requires them to sign numerous forms and undergo a DNA test and eye scan, which might set a few alarm bells ringing in some people’s heads, but Adam and Hank are too high on life to really care. Although Drucker asks for Adam to be his pilot on the flight, Hank talks his partner into allowing him to take his place, which he could easily do seeing as how Drucker’s people didn’t take any photographs of them. Because he’s keen to get home for his birthday celebrations, Adam agrees, and then heads off for Re-Pet, the place where pets are cloned, because Natalie called him earlier to let him know the dog had died and could he pick up a replacement on the way home? As I said earlier, Adam’s a touch reluctant, believing Clara should learn that death and grieving is a part of life but, as we shall later learn, he’s on a promise that he undoubtedly doesn’t want to sour, so dutifully heads for the local Re-Pet store.
He later wakes up in a cab outside the store with no recollection of how he got there. Figuring he must have fallen asleep, he pays the cabbie and enters the store, where he’s accosted by an overly-familiar salesman. Ultimately unable to bring himself to buy a clone of their beloved pet, Adam buys his daughter a Simdoll instead. No, it’s not a cloned version of Barbie or anything like that. A simdoll is a creepy doll that would scare anyone under the age of 102, let alone a pre-teen girl. It moves and talks like a person, but it’s resemblance to humans is crude and just a little ugly. Initially, it looks as if this doll is going to have some part to play in the story, but alas it meets a nasty fate shortly after Adam arrives home. First of all, he’s stunned to see the family dog, alive and well and barking at the gate. Even worse, he then peers through his living room window to see himself blowing the cakes out on a birthday cake and snogging his wife. But how can he be inside kissing his wife when he’s outside watching himself kissing his wife? The mind boggles…
Which, of course, is the idea. Before Adam and the audience can unboggle their minds however, he’s accosted by a man and a woman who do their damnedest to kill him, but succeed only in destroying his doll. He’s now on the run, and finds himself battling one of those gigantic corporate monsters so beloved of sf movies as he struggles to stay alive and to reclaim his life from the impostor who’s brazenly diddling his wife.
Cloning is one of those topics that open up avenues of thought that are limited only by the imagination of the human brain, and The 6th Day pretty much covers all the bases when it comes to the likely outcome of some megalomaniac with a God complex cloning those who can either pay the asking price or offer him increased power in return. The movie takes place in a future in which the technological advancements are still rooted in reality so that it remains one that is mostly recognisable to us. The cloning of humans has been banned following a botched prototype, but Drucker has perfected a method of cloning a person from a sample of their DNA and a ‘recording’ of their memories which means he can create an identical replica of any living human within two hours, something which he repeatedly does both to himself and the three enforcers he keeps on hand for situations such as Adam.
While The 6th Day doesn’t avoid the ethical and philosophical issues which inevitably surround such a thorny topic — which is something of a surprise for an action movie aimed squarely at the multiplex crowd (it is an Arnie movie, after all) — neither does it explore them in any real depth. The idea of meeting another you, identical in every detail, including the nick you gave yourself when shaving that morning, borders on the humorous when Adam encounters his own clone — who naturally believes that he is the real and original Adam Gibson, and this would be a major let-down if the Wibberleys didn’t then return to the idea with a lot more punch when the dying Drucker meets his own clone — only partly developed due to an aborted cloning session. The quiet horror of meeting a facsimile of yourself who demonstrates the same callousness as you — the new Drucker immediately sets about commandeering the clothes off the old Drucker’s back — drives home the point that even if your clone is activated after your death, he will not be you, the sequel, but merely a unique inheritor of your every characteristic with an agenda that requires you to step aside. Thus, immortality through cloning is exposed as a myth.
The 6th Day is more action movie than thought-provoking sf, however, and there’s something strangely reassuring about the smoothly oiled machine directing Arnie from one set piece to another. Of course, he’s as endearingly awful, as usual — proof that acting ability is no match for charisma and a strong character when it comes to securing Hollywood stardom — but he always looks as if he believes unquestioningly in every line that he speaks. Tony Goldwyn stands out as a nicely oily villain who is clearly based on the likes of corporate good guys Gates and Jobs, while Robert Duvall gives the impression he’s slumming a little bit as Drucker’s scientific genius with a conscience, an sf rarity in that he’s a sane scientist instead of the usual mad one.
For the most part, the Wibberleys succeed in avoiding the pitfalls that could have easily tied them up in knots, but there are definite weaknesses in the script that maybe could have been erased with a little more care. That impractical remote control helicopter, for example, which is operated by a device strapped to the operator’s wrist. What possible use could that have in the world other than to provide our hero with a convenient means of escape just when he needs it? Also, at one point someone states that it’s impossible to clone a brain but it is possible to clone a whole person. Excuse me? Isn’t the brain part of a whole person? As it happens, I think I know what they mean, but a touch more thought on the writers’ part might have reduced the need for extraneous thought on mine…
(Reviewed 1st December 2013)