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By 2000, Arnold Schwarzenegger was starting to slowly lose his box office magic, with films like Batman & Robin (1997), End Of Days (1999) and The 6th Day (2000) all grossing less than expected and getting average reviews. The biggest offender was Batman & Robin (1997), a film that many hold responsible for killing the original Batman movie franchise along with the careers of its cast and crew (except George Clooney, who miraculously went on to become a huge star). It seems that Schwarzenegger suffered from it too and that's a shame, as I consider the three films I mentioned above to be very entertaining and different than anything else in Arnold's filmography. (Yes, I actually thought he was the right casting choice for Mr. Freeze...). To me, the most interesting film of those three is The 6th Day, a sci-fi extravaganza dealing with the themes of cloning and identity. Sadly, it seems the general public thought differently at the time, as the film grossed only 96 000 000$ out of its 82 000 000$ budget. Film critics disliked the film, with some even comparing it negatively to Total Recall (1990). I always thought that was unfair and that The 6th Day should have been a much bigger hit. Yes, I absolutely love this film.
The plot of the film is its first strong point ; I consider it quite original and ambitious. "The Sixth Day" is set in a world of the very near future in which cattle, fish and even the family pet can be cloned. But cloning humans is illegal—that is until family man Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) comes home from work one day to find a clone has replaced him. Taken from his family and plunged into a sinister world he doesn't understand, Gibson must not only save himself from the assassins who must now destroy him to protect their secret, but uncover who and what is behind the horrible things happening to him. "The Sixth Day" is the story of Gibson's struggle to reclaim his life and his family (blu-ray.com).
Don't be fooled by the fact that this is a big Hollywood blockbuster (and a Schwarzenegger film) ; The 6th Day raises interesting questions about identity and the value of human life. Cloning was a very hot subject back in 2000, with the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996. One exchange in the movie between a reporter and Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) always comes to my mind when I think of this film :
- Reporter : Do you think human cloning laws should be changed?
- Drucker : Suppose a ten-year-old boy is in the hospital, dying of liver cancer. Thanks to Dr. Weir's work, we can save that boy. In the next bed lies another ten-year-old boy whose parents love him just as much, only he has an inoperable brain tumor. You cannot clone a brain. The only way to save him would be to clone the whole person. How do you tell that boy's parents that we can save the first boy, but the research that would have saved their son wasn't done, because of a law passed by frightened politicians a decade ago?
Also, is a clone's life worth the same as a human ? Is a clone human at all? These are questions to which we might have to answer one day... Those themes might seem heavy at first sight and could be the basis of a very serious existential sci-fi movie, but that's not what The 6th Day attempts to be. There is plenty of action and humor in order for it to remain entertaining and a great popcorn movie.
The cast and crew assembled for the film is quite impressive. Director Roger Spottiswoode proved that he was a great action director, as he was then red-hot from 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies. The 6th Day marks Arnold Schwarzenegger's first sci-fi film since 1990's Total Recall outside the Terminator franchise and is his last as of 2016. I would like him to return to the genre as I consider both these films as first-rate entertainment. He reportedly received a 25 000 000$ salary for his role in the film, more than a quarter of the film's budget ! The studio executives must have cried when the film opened at No. 4 in the U.S. and grossed only 13 000 000$ during its first weekend... Michael Rapaport plays Arnold's friend Hank Morgan and is perfect for the role, remaining a sympathetic low-key character without being an annoying sidekick like in so many Hollywood films (the worst offender being Rob Schneider in 1995's Judge Dredd). Tony Goldwyn plays the bad guy here and is surprisingly effective. I don't remember seeing him in any other film than this and 2003's The Last Samurai. Underrated perhaps ? The trio of henchmen chasing Arnold is played by Michael Rooker (now perhaps best known for The Walking Dead), Sarah Wynter and Terry Crews (in his first role). Robert Duvall is a as good as usual and his scenes with his dying wife are quite poignant. The scene in which she tells him that she refuses to be cloned again gets to my heart every time.
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Being a Schwarzenegger film before anything else, The 6th Day contains its lot of action and violence. The film is fairly violent but is much less gory than Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall (1990). Everything is stylized and made with good taste ; the film was given a PG-13 rating. Some like to complain that every Schwarzenegger film should be rated R but I really don't see the need for it here! Action film fans will find plenty to like ; there are quite a few spectacular sequences. For instance, a few minutes into the film, we have an amazing car chase involving a 1957 Cadillac. This scene will likely stay with you after the film. Speaking of cars, GM allowed the production to use some concept cars as the vehicles of the future, such as a 1999 Pontiac Montana Thunder Concept Car and a fictitious self driving pick-up. These maybe looked futuristic back in 2000 but they already look dated nowadays ! Arnold's character is a charter pilot, so we get plenty of sequences involving those futuristic helicopters (see picture below). In some shots, they are made with CGI while in others they used miniatures. The CGI in the film is sometimes obvious and makes the film looks dated, such as some helicopter shots or the final stage of cloning but it's never too distracting. I wouldn't say they overused the computer effects. I think The 6th Day compares favorably to any action or sci-fi film of its time on that level. The film is fast-paced but easy to follow.
While the film deals with serious subject, Schwarzenegger keeps his comedic cool and of course has great puns, such as this one :
- Gibson : You should clone yourself.
- Drucker : And why's that ?
- Gibson : So you could fuck yourself.
I can't help but laugh everytime I get to this scene. Arnold remains an underrated comedian and his comic timing is always spot-on, as proven in Twins (1988) and Kindergarten Cop (1990). It's a shame he didn't do any other comedies following 1996's Jingle All The Way. Anyone watching this film will be waiting for the obvious scene where Gibson actually meets his clone and Arnold plays it really well ; the exchanges between the two are funny but never ridiculous. It could have easily been played just for laughs. There are other funny elements in The 6th Day, such as Hank Morgan's holographic horny girlfriend or the creepy Simpal Cindy. However, the film never becomes a parody of the genre but contains just enough comedic moments to be what I consider a real crowd-pleaser.
The musical score for the film was composed by Trevor Rabin (the former Yes guitarist) and what he came up with is an excellent soundtrack with two memorable themes. It is quite bombastic (not unlike Jerry Goldsmith's Total Recall score) and successfully blends orchestral with electronic sounds. The CD release is relatively easy to obtain and is a must-have if you enjoy action or sci-fi soundtracks. The main theme is pulse pounding and a joy to listen to by itself, while Adam's Theme is very touching and makes my hair rise on my arms anytime I listen to it. You can listen to it yourself down here :
Adam's Theme by Trevor Rabin
Watch it !
Following the commercial failure of The 6th Day, Arnold went on to star in Collateral Damage (2002), a big budget action film dealing with terrorism in a big American city. Sadly, the film was set to be released around the time of 9/11. The timing couldn't have been worse and its release was delayed. Once it hit theaters, it was ignored by the public and it totally failed at the box office. Naturally, Arnold needed a hit so he went back to the Terminator franchise and the long awaited Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines (2003) was released to great commercial success. However, Schwarzenegger then decided to put his acting career on hold to become the governor of California. His next starring role would be in 2013's The Last Stand. To this day, I still think The 6th Day is his last great film and a highlight of his filmography. It's thrilling and I love to show it to friends. I honestly have trouble finding flaws in how it's directed or in the way the story unfolds. It's pure fun and manages to raise interesting questions. Don't miss it !
Thank you for reading !