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Children of Men
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by EricDSnider

"Technically and thematically brilliant."
5 stars

One of the most technically brilliant and thematically layered films of the year, "Children of Men" is a stark, gray vision of a future without hope. How does a society respond when its outlook is irrefutably grim? And how quickly does joy return when hope re-emerges?

Based on the P.D. James novel, the film is set in the fall of 2027, when the world is in utter chaos. News reports refer to day 1,000 in "the siege of Seattle." Governments have toppled. Anarchy reigns supreme. Only the United Kingdom has maintained some semblance of order, and that only shakily and dubiously, as the government relies on fascist tactics and a steady diet of misinformation to maintain even the slight control it has.

The cause of all this confusion? It has been 18 years since any woman on Earth has had a baby. For reasons unknown, humans have become universally infertile. First birthrates declined, then plummeted, and then, in 2009, ceased altogether. There is literally not a single child anywhere in the world. The youngest person is 18.

The link between this and the world's chaos may seem tenuous, and the film never says specifically that the flatlined birthrate is what caused the breakdown in civilization. But the point is compellingly made nonetheless. Imagine a world without children. In the short-term, it means no schools, no playgrounds, no chance to hear the sound of children's laughter or to watch their delight on Christmas morning. In the long-term, it means no no potential for growth, no chance for the next generation to make the world a better place. There's truly no reason to care much about what you do when you know there will be no humans left on Earth in another 80 years anyway.

It is in this bleak situation that we meet Theo Faron (Clive Owen), an employee in the U.K.'s Ministry of Energy who is dragged into activism by Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore), his former lover and the mother of his now-deceased child. Julian disappeared years ago and now reappears as part of a radical group called the Human Project. The government has branded them as violent terrorists, and to prove the point, the government occasionally blows something up and blames it on the Human Project.

The group is actually non-violent and seeks to expose the British government's appalling treatment of immigrants, among other things. With most other countries gone haywire, England has been flooded with refugees, but anti-immigration laws render them less than human. Illegals are hunted down aggressively and detained in Guantanamo-style barracks.

The Human Project needs Theo's help getting transport papers for a woman who needs to be taken someplace safe. Her name is Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey). She is in her late teens. And she is pregnant.

I wish I could leave that detail unmentioned, but it would impossible to describe the urgency of the film's second half without discussing it. (The movie's trailer and all its advertising mention the pregnancy, as does the back cover of the book it's based on.) Even knowing in advance that the girl is pregnant, however, it's hard not to share in the stunned surprise when Theo discovers it. All the ramifications instantly become apparent. This girl and her baby must be protected at all costs. This birth could be the most pivotal event in mankind's history since a certain other miraculous birth 2,027 years earlier.

The screenplay, adapted by director Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton, is packed with fascinating details and nuances of the dystopian future. The government encourages suicide (to keep the population down) and even provides kits to help people, yet marijuana remains illegal. Religious zealotry is on the rise. People no longer have any regard for artistic works, since the world is ending anyway.

That last point means "Children of Men" the movie would be of little interest to the people of 2027, because it's an artistic marvel. There are at least three very complicated scenes that would take a normal director days to shoot, with multiple camera angles and careful editing; Cuaron shoots them each in one long, unbroken take. The most stunning is a lengthy sequence in which Theo rushes through several blocks of a war-torn neighborhood, dodging bullets and explosions as he goes. Blood gets spattered on the camera near the end, and you can imagine Cuaron saying, "We're not re-doing the whole thing just for that." The logistics of filming such a long, action-packed scene in one shot are mind-boggling.

"Children of Men" deserves praise for reasons other than technical ones, though. Clive Owen's performance is stoic and steady, and Michael Caine is a breath of fresh air as a pothead friend of Theo's. It's a film full of imagination, ideas, and intelligence, completely riveting from start to finish.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15254&reviewer=247
originally posted: 12/22/06 01:02:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/23/14 dr.lao I'm just glad I wasn't depressed when I watched it 5 stars
5/26/14 Richard Brandt Cuaron's nervously roaming camera lends credence to this bleak, bleak world 4 stars
11/18/12 Sean Harrison A great beginning and a great ending, terrible otherwise. 2 stars
10/01/10 bored mom This rips off American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, except it won't give you a brain hemorrhage. 3 stars
6/17/09 Bonny Javo An interesting idea about the future reduced to a pretentious and plodding chase venue. 2 stars
4/24/09 TheGoc Dark but spectaular story of our near possible future if we continue in the wrong direction 5 stars
4/02/09 Pete Snot A technical marvel bereft of any intelligence, useful plot or characters you'd care about. 1 stars
4/02/09 Gorgon Zola A movie that makes it a point to be pointless. A partonizing script and no ending. Awful. 1 stars
1/10/09 Sully I still find it tough to understand what those crazy Brits are saying! 4 stars
11/19/08 David Newell Filmview Magazine says that this has the "stupidest title in motion picture history" 1 stars
10/07/08 Shaun Wallner I did'nt get it. Very Confusing. 2 stars
9/20/08 mr.mike It was....fair. 3 stars
4/21/08 Vineet Doshi Not exactly superb, but a good movie nonethelss. 4 stars
3/22/08 Matt awesome movie, eerily realistic, 1& 2 star raters-you guys are fuckin retarted 5 stars
1/27/08 R.W.Welch Done with great expertise, tho premise is hard to buy. 4 stars
10/31/07 Wake up, people! This is really, sad.. My first serious movie and liek omg it's liek so 'heavy' and 'deep'. i'm smart now, kthxbye 2 stars
10/23/07 Clarence Anyone who gives this film less than five stars is obviously braindead. 5 stars
10/23/07 William Goss A viscerally impressive rendering of an all-too-feasible future. 5 stars
9/13/07 I-K Visually and stylistically gob-smacking, woven through with references subtle and overt. 5 stars
8/28/07 kris A great film, obviously too smart for many here. 5 stars
8/21/07 Double M Technicaly great but flat characters, uninvolving, not THAT deep; didn't make me care. 3 stars
7/07/07 Tom Servo Finally a serious and deep sci-fi film-people with short attention spans beware 5 stars
7/07/07 K. Sear Meandered aimlessly and gave no incentive to care about the outcome. 1 stars
6/26/07 rw this movie blew. not worth the money to rent it. too many unanswered questions. 1 stars
5/29/07 Piz As you can see you'll either love it or hate it. Engaging movie with a flat ending. 4 stars
5/28/07 mb Dark 4 stars
5/25/07 Dan Pointless and confused. 1 stars
5/13/07 Elisa This film sucked 1 stars
5/06/07 Indrid Cold Yet another film enormously influenced by the cinematography of Saving Private Ryan. 4 stars
5/06/07 Tracey Chambers great movie, enuff said 5 stars
5/05/07 Todd Don't let the name fool you, this movie kicks ass. 5 stars
5/05/07 AJ Muller SciFi yes, but the dramatic weight is what gives this movie its power. Astounding. 5 stars
4/28/07 Geraldine Riveting, indeed. I loved this movie. 5 stars
4/23/07 matthew Uninvolving, terrible performances but good cinematography. Not as good as it thinks it is 3 stars
4/17/07 Stevo UK Its not us and our machines that are damaging the planet, its God-awful films like these. 1 stars
4/16/07 Jefenator Best I've seen in years. Pushes the envellope and doesn't mush out like most thrillers do. 5 stars
4/02/07 Monday Morning Better for humans to disappear, the way we're screwing up the planet. 2 stars
3/28/07 Luke My fave of 06 and well on it's way into my personal top movies of all time "pull my finger" 5 stars
3/27/07 action movie fan potetniaaly good, but way too avant garde-often confusing 3 stars
3/20/07 James Dunn Bleak, yes, but ultimately uplifting speculative fiction. Loved it! 5 stars
2/18/07 dmitry Good for the first hour before devolving into ridiculous schmaltz 2 stars
2/15/07 Bruce H An astounding, amazing, thinking persons movie, with a frighteningly real sequence 5 stars
2/08/07 mckrob definitely worth seeing !! 5 stars
2/04/07 Bert Kaplan lots of violence, great if you love blood and guts; a few interesting ideas 2 stars
1/25/07 kris Bitchflaps: what pretentious or derivative about it? Flap your bitch less. 5 stars
1/21/07 drtednelson the action sequences were almost good enough to make me forget that this movie had no "why" 3 stars
1/20/07 Dan F Background was the new of the world we live in - everyman/woman solidly placed at the core 5 stars
1/18/07 jcjs always nice to see Clive...excellent message which will happen if we don't straighten up... 5 stars
1/16/07 daveyt thought ending should've been darker, excellent film anyway. Will watch again for subplot 5 stars
1/14/07 Ben(jo) de Cinema An accomplishment of craft in every aspect. The ambiguity of its end is necessary to theme 4 stars
1/13/07 Tanya Excellent, full of action makes you think about the future 5 stars
1/13/07 Simon Beautifullly, stunningly, gorgeously directed. Sometimes hollow, but still impressive x10. 5 stars
1/12/07 Bitchflaps Horrendously pretentious, derivative and overlong, I almost walked out. 1 stars
1/10/07 biskitboy Masterful execution of a C-grade script. Half-baked. 4 stars
1/09/07 shaun lawton Nothing silly about it. Gripping, realistic, funny, tragic. Best futurist movie I've seen 5 stars
1/09/07 kris A marvel, should be seen in a good cinema. Saw it 3 times. 5 stars
1/08/07 del You're all just repeating one another because someone told you to. Sheep. 3 stars
1/08/07 Gerhard Maier Amazing movie that proves the genius of Cuaron. Watch it on a big screen 5 stars
1/07/07 Jill A really great story just doesn't end like that, Cuaron didn't have the guts to see it thru 3 stars
1/07/07 Todd Wallace Visionary, excellent film. Masterpiece. Politically relevant to today's war crimes. 5 stars
1/07/07 Zee Ryder See it. Then read the book and see it again. Science is dead, what's left? 5 stars
1/07/07 Christine Loved it. But cried a lot. Disgusted by the similarities to the US(what we're doing now) 5 stars
1/06/07 Jeffrey Fantastic, thought provoking and at times touching 5 stars
1/06/07 Dark Enchantress Great movie, very interesting and i could not look away 5 stars
1/06/07 Geoff Best action sequences I have ever seen in film, the theater I was in gave standing ovation 5 stars
1/06/07 Jeramie Clark Good call on the second viewing, every frame provides more depth to the story..AMAZING 5 stars
12/28/06 Tony Jovevski Magnificent, bravura film making. Best sci-fi in two decades. A privelege to sit and watc 5 stars
12/26/06 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty silly plotline, but an involving, active movie. 4 stars
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  25-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 27-Mar-2007



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