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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.71%
Just Average: 6.2%
Pretty Crappy: 10.08%
Sucks: 7.75%

10 reviews, 69 user ratings

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Children of Men
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Drum-tight and effective, but does it live up to the hype?"
4 stars

The theme of 2006 could have been “Children of Orwell” — not just on the world stage but in cinemas, which gave us such bleak visions as 'V for Vendetta,' 'The Road to Guantanamo,' and 'Children of Men.' The latter is a technically virtuosic, if slightly overpraised, parable in which futuristic Britain “soldiers on” despite worldwide infertility.

It’s 2027, and the maternity wards have been silent for eighteen years; the last human to have been born has been knifed to death, and the world mourns, though one character pegs him (probably accurately) as “a wanker.” Still, as hope goes, so goes the world, which has collapsed into general chaos. But then, from the throngs of illegal immigrants, emerges hope for the future: a pregnant woman.

Children of Men has been streamlined from P.D. James’ elegantly composed novel into an action-thriller that speaks the abrupt, clattering language of war movies and dispenses with the usual flashy dystopian visions. This is “soft” science fiction, beginning with a dire premise and avoiding hardware in favor of the humanity affected by the premise. Our stubbly hero, corporate drone Theo Faron (Clive Owen), is content to shuffle about, lukewarm coffee in hand, as the universe disintegrates around him. Fate, and the plot, have different designs in mind for Theo: he’s pressed into service by a revolutionary group — whose number includes his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) — to help deliver the aforementioned pregnant woman, with the rather on-the-nose name Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), to safe harbor.

As directed by the gifted Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), the movie scarcely pauses to take in its own depressed trappings; the clutter and violence are never rubbed in our faces — they’re just part of the texture, taken as a given. Such shout-outs to the current age as Abu Ghraib hoods and vans marked “Homeland Security” are only glimpsed, providing a backdrop of dread. But the story, whittled down by Cuarón and four other writers, ends up not saying much about the world it presents. It sprints with enviable momentum — it certainly never gets bogged down. But it feels like a hunk of fat-free narrative carved off of a larger and more thoughtful vision.

That said, Children of Men offers a wealth of diversions, starting with Michael Caine, happily tucking his scenes into his shirt pocket, as an aging hippie with an abundance of weed and a box of government-produced suicide pills called Quietus, just in case. Caine’s final, slyly defiant scene is all the more effective for unfolding entirely in long shot. Alfonso Cuarón’s technique here is to hide his technique. Many critics have justly geeked out over the phenomenal sequence set inside a car during a particularly brutal and bloody chase; most of it is over before you’re aware that the whole thing has been captured in one unbroken camera move. Cuarón works hard to deromanticize combat, giving us the random pops and cracks of a war zone, the bullets spiderwebbing the soundtrack with an angry hum. Even during the movie’s most overtly redemptive sequence, we can still just barely catch a rapt onlooker in the background as he or she falls to a stray bullet.

I think I prefer P.D. James’ quieter take on the same material, but Cuarón’s Children of Men is its own rough beast, slouching towards a literal Bethlehem where the first infant in eighteen years emerges into the world limp, as if acquiescing to the hopelessness of her surroundings, and then shakes herself alive and emits a sound no one has heard in a generation. This sound even hushes soldiers in the midst of battle (Cuarón handles this deftly; it isn’t the Shawshank Redemption “everyone stands around speechless and looking stupid” moment it could’ve been).

'Children of Men' is a taut story well-told, a perfectly good movie mistaken for great by critics who’ve been deprived of perfectly good movies all year. Don’t let them oversell it or inflate it: it does the job, it does it well, and the fact that it’s being called a masterpiece for doing so speaks unwell of the current state of movies.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15254&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/07/07 20:06:40
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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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