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10 reviews, 70 user ratings

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Children of Men
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by MP Bartley

"A Barren Vision."
2 stars

Children of Men takes an interesting concept - humanity faces extinction because women have lost the ability to have babies - that raises some intriguing questions. If women cannot fulfill their biological imperative, what would their function be in society? And if it was determined to be a genetic or biological fault with women, how would the men of the planet react, being rendered utterly pointless? These are very interesting questions that Children of Men opts not to answer however, becoming only a vaguely interesting chase movie instead. For a film that posits a world that has literally been castrated, it is perhaps fitting that Children of Men has little balls and gives birth to nothing of note.

London, 2027. Theo (Clive Owen) is an office worker, who like most people, has given up hope of mankind surviving the barren curse that has inflicted itself upon women for some unknown reason. It's a gloomy future, with a sharp shock for the characters at the beginning as the youngest child in the world unexpectedly dies. Theo's best friend is Jasper (Michael Caine) an ageing hippy, who still grows, sells and smokes pot whilst caring for his catatonic wife. Out of the blue, Theo is contacted by his ex-wife Julian (Juliane Moore) who has a request for him, and an astounding secret to share. She belongs to an organisation who have found Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a young immigrant who speaks little English, yet is very very pregnant. A revelation like this could have earth shattering consequences, and Theo is charged with the task of smuggling Kee through internment camps to the coast where she can be rescued from another organisation which wants to capture Kee.

Setting a film in a near future dystopia is always an inviting temptation for a writer or director. They can set up an apocalyptic scenario, but in a period we recognise as practically our own, thus giving it a "it could happen tomorrow..." punch. Alfonso Cuaron gives the film a gloomy, cloudy feel to it, but it doesn't feel like the slow drawn out end of the world as much as much as everyone being extremely grumpy. It's a foggy situation further blurred by the fact that Cuaron fumbles his rendering of the future. We see that Britain is now a place of extreme civil unrest, with prisoner camps, military checkpoints, terrorist acts on the streets and mass immigration. But we're never unaware of just why this unrest is being stirred up. A reaction to the government's impotence to the sterility problem? Overseas and homeland policies? A general rage against the dying out of humanity - if we're going down, we'll go down screaming? We don't really need to know why women have stopped having babies, but we do need some context as to the world we're put in, otherwise it's just a series of characters having some unspecified and dramatically distant problems.

Cuaron never gets to the heart of the problem in society, and the central problem is never developed, instead turning this potentially interesting scenario, into one long, drawn out chase with no sense of a three act structure - it begins, goes on for a bit and then just stops on a vaguely ambiguous note, that is meant to pass for profundity and intellectual stimulation. Cuaron seemingly has little regard for the genre mechanics that could pin down the drama of the film. Yes, an escape in a car from a farmhouse is certainly different, but not particularly effective. There's no sense of doom, no tension and no sense of anything really being at stake. It's never really established just why Kee is so important to Julian's organisation, or why a rival organisation has more nefarious plans for her. Cuaron's camera is fluid and floats along pleasantly, but he never makes us care about anyone. Instead, the film is littered with flourishes that either irritate - a pointlessly odd scene with Danny Huston and a wacky performance from Peter Mullan as a corrupt and manic prison guard that has no place in such a poe-faced film - or are clumsily ham fisted. The saviour of humanity is named Kee (subtle!) and the reveal of her pregnancy in a barn full of cows, are just two sledgehammer allusions to her importance.

Ashitey has a tough job, convincing us that she's humanity's survivor despite being petrified and unable to communicate, and as such we never buy into Kee being someone that needs to be protected. Moore gives her least interesting performance to date, while Caine is simply embarrassing as the old hippy still getting stoned. His hair is bad, but not as bad as the scene where he mimes playing along to jungle music. Inexplicably touted for an Oscar in some quarters, it's a role that he should quietly try and forget. Owen however, continues to show that he's the most overrated actor working today. Devoid of charisma or charm, but vacant and wooden, he resolutely fails to show just why he, of all people, would be entrusted with such a vital task. He clearly comes from the 'less is more' school, but just doesn't have innate energy to convince us that there's anything going on beneath the surface, coming across as not a desperate revolutionary going some kind of character growth, but more as someone trying to shake off a bad hangover.

Much has been made of the films climax, set in a prison camp that has descended into a war zone. It's an applause worthy section, stunningly directed, but it comes out of nowhere - who's fighting and why, is barely touched upon as the film struggles and fails to gain some undeserved danger and tension. It just never grabs us by the balls and drags us into it's own world, keeping us at a reserved and cold distance. Cuaron can frame some memorable image, but what's the point of a frame, if there's nothing interesting within it?

By the end of Children of Men we have seen a lot of bloodshed, yet never cared for anyone in it. We have the winding down of humanity, yet never felt the cold hand of doom at any point. We have seen characters risk everything, yet never learnt why, or felt their success or failure. We have seen Cuaron craft a film with some impeccable technical credits, yet have been intensely bored by it. If this is the future, I want out.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15254&reviewer=293
originally posted: 03/07/07 05:37:37
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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

3/30/21 morris campbell boring 2 me 1 stars
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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