The 6th Day (2000, Roger Spottiswoode)

For this film-by-film look at the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’ve been watching his movies in a random order and jotting down a few thoughts. The Schwarzenegger Says quotations are taken from Total Recall (2012), Arnie’s brilliantly bonkers autobiography.


Watched: 4 October 2019
Format: A DVD bought in a branch of CEX in Woolwich, south-east London.
Seen before? No.

Review: Let’s start with the positives… This film, which was released 20 years ago, accurately predicts a lot of recent developments. We’re never told in which year the story takes place, other than it being ‘sooner than you think’, but we could be in 2020 given the instances of driverless cars, SatNavs, FaceTime chats, people rudely forcing others to listen to their FaceTime chats, obtrusive and targeted advertising, and Alexa-style AIs in the home… It’s a shame that so much else in the film is wide of the mark.

In the years before our plot begins, the US has passed Sixth Days Laws banning the science of human cloning. (Cloning other animals is allowed, in part because religious groups are less concerned with scientists meddling with the souls of pets.) Arnold Schwarzenegger – slipping inelegantly down the backslide of the action-movie phase of his career – plays Adam Gibson, a charter helicopter pilot. After a brief encounter with a cloning billionaire called Michael Drucker, Adam’s life is thrown into turmoil when he returns home to find a clone imposter of himself playing the role of father and husband. Our Adam must go on the run, chased by operatives of Drucker’s, to find out why he’s been replaced. His quest eventually leads to an encounter with the replacement Adam, and scenes featuring two Arnold Schwarzeneggers must surely have been a major selling point during this film’s pitch meetings. Then with the hollow, leaden clank of tiresome inevitability comes the most obvious plot twist you could possible have in a story about a man who discovers he’s been replaced by a duplicate.

The movie is directed by Roger Spottiswoode, who a few years earlier had a hit-and-miss experience working on the James Bond series. Despite its flaws, however, Tomorrow Never Dies had far more hits than the misfiring The 6th Day. This is a terrible film. A thriller with no thrills, it features an action plot that fails to hit home, comedy that stinks the scenes up, stakes that never seem that high, violence and sexual content that feels like it’s been neutered in post-production, and the kind of flashy editing that makes you want to chew off your own head. The script and Spottiswoode’s staging also seem tone-deaf to plausibility. This manifests itself in minor moments such as when a doctor declares a star sportsman paralysed *within earshot of his fans*, or major story points such as when a clone casually disregards his love for his family.

There’s also a huge central flaw. At the time of The 6th Day’s development, cloning was a big story. Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned, had been born in July 1996 and revealed to the world a year later. (By the way, she was cloned from cells taken from an adult sheep’s mammary gland – so the name Dolly was a jokey reference to Dolly Parton.) Fears about the implications of this new science, especially from religious groups, was front-page news for a short while. But in its attempt to ‘sci-fi up’ the concept, The 6th Day combines the real science of cloning bodies with the gobbledegook drivel of transferring a human being’s entire personality across from one body to another. In reality, a clone – while genetically identical to a previous animal – is still a unique life form. In the cod world of The 6th Day, cloning equals a kind of Frankenstein resurrection of the dead. It should have stayed on the slab.

Schwarzenegger Says: ‘In mid-February, when we were in late-night negotiations [during Schwarzenegger’s time as a Governor of California], sometimes I would remind myself that this was nothing compared to being up to my neck in freezing jungle mud in Predator or driving a Cadillac down stairs in The 6th Day.’

Three SimPals out of 10

Next: The Expendables

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