The Omega Code

Directed by Robert Marcarelli
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Michael York, Catherine Oxenberg, Michael Ironside, Jan Tríska, Gregory Wagrowski, Devon Odessa.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for several scenes of shootings.

Review by Matt Heffernan
November 17, 1999

When The Omega Code premiered on October 15, it grossed enough to just break the top ten at the box office, despite being in limited release. Unlike other films, this release wasn't limited to big cities, but to small towns across the country, and pretty good coverage of southern California. The Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian cable TV station, produced this film, and distributed it through churches. However, it didn't reach New York or anywhere in the tri-state area, until now. In the wake of Dogma, a very good film that was condemned by religious groups, I have the opportunity to review what they think is a worthy effort.

The basis of the plot is the "bible code", a belief that the Hebrew Torah has hidden words in it that contain keys to the future and the secrets of life. They get these words by taking letters at regular intervals, spelling out things like "Hitler" and "Princess Diana". In Israel, a rabbi working on finding more secret messages is killed, and his notebook taken. However, he removed the last page before the assassin arrived, leaving a very important message incomplete.

The page falls into the hands of Dr. Gillen Lane (Casper Van Dien), a motivational speaker and avid believer in the bible code. Statesman Stone Alexander (Michael York), when he isn't trying to bring about peace in Israel, is plotting to take over the world. Somehow (it's never made really clear), having the complete code will help him do this. Gillen is hired as Alexander's assistant, but he quickly catches on to the plan, and has to save the world with the help of two mysterious prophets (Jan Tríska and Gregory Wagrowski), a talk show host (Catherine Oxenberg), and his estranged wife (Devon Odessa).

My God, it sounds a lot like Dogma doesn't it? The films were made at about the same time, so there wasn't any plagiarism, just a common theme of millenial apocalypse that will be visited again in End of Days. However, unlike Dogma, this film has hardly any redeeming qualities, not even the ones that its pious producers claim it has. Religion has a lot to do with the plot, and the ending is a literal deus ex machina, but there was nothing faith-affirming in it. In fact, it ruined my faith in spiritual filmmaking.

First off, casting Van Dien as the lead in any picture is just a mistake. He has no visible talent, and being in the presence of the highly talented York doen't help. Not that any decent performances were possible with such a weak story. There are countless plot holes, not to mention long stretches without any momentum. A short dream sequence that echoed North By Northwest showed a faint glimmer of hope, but going back to "reality" was a real drag.

I think the basic problem that keeps this film from working is the high concept of the bible code. Any statistician could tell you that there is nothing special about the Torah that allows these little phrases to pop up. You could find them in any book of that size, in any language. I don't want to discount religion, and I do realize that this is my third review in a row in which I make remarks against religious people. I don't intend to make generalizations; some of my best friends are very religious, and I respect their beliefs. What I don't appreciate is the conception held by some people (religious or not) that they can dictate what art should be available to the public, especially when they have taste as bad as this.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Omega Code (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan