Film review: Children of Men

Children of Men
2006
Strike Entertainment, Relativity Media, Hit and Run Productions, Imagine Entertainment

STARRING Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Pam Ferris, Danny Huston
WRITTEN BY Timothy J. Sexton, Alfonso Cuarón, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby (all screenplay) adapted from the novel ‘Children of Men’ by P.D. James
PRODUCED BY Marc Abraham, Pablo Casacuberta, Eric Newman, Hilary Shor, Iain Smith, Tony Smith
DIRECTED BY Alfonso Cuarón

SHOT BY Emmanuel Lubezki
EDITED BY Alfonso Cuarón, Alex Rodríguez
MUSIC BY John Tavener
DISTRIBUTED BY Universal Pictures, Dreamworks

Screened on 2006-12-13

Children of Men assumes a future in 2027 in which women have been infertile for the past 18 years, leaving the last few generations of humanity to wither and despair before our species vanishes forever.  Part activist/stoner propaganda, part on-the-run adventure, Children would be better of deciding which is preferred more.  Clive Owen is a London everyman and former activist whose ex-wife (Julianne Moore) happens to be the current leader of a libeled terrorist organization.  When Owen is summoned by Moore to use his Ministry of Transportation connections to help the terrorists/activists smuggle a woman over the border, he takes a swig and shrugs “sure.”  Owen is overwhelmed with despair that his world is fading before his eyes…but his soul is reawakened as he learns that his human cargo is a miraculously (not literally) pregnant young woman.  Thus begins the partial-sci-fi cat-and-mouse chase across the English countryside, through betrayed alliances, smoldering warzones, and a generous portion of lugubrious fear-mongering.

Story really comes before character – Owen is just a guy who cares, the girl (named Kee, of all goddamn things) is just a girl who’s pregnant.  The first third of the story is almost exclusively expository (most all stories taking place in the future are), and not without its judgments and half-subtle suggestions.  Whether it be tainting factory smoke above a pastoral landscape or aging stoner and political cartoonist Michael Caine toking up and playing Radiohead for you, the film’s ideals are the massive hood-ornament adorning its prow.  However, once the talky nonsense takes a backseat to the frantic, nonstop chase, most complaints cease.  It’s difficult to find fault in a game of speed chess, and so the rest of the film plays out, giving you one big decision after the other and praying that all will work out in the end – which it mostly does, thankfully.  Most impressive in Children is the cinematography, by Emmanuel Lubezki.  There are some downright exceptionally long one-shot takes involving complicated set dressing and blocking, sometimes hundreds of extras, torrents of gunfire and even tank blasts, following characters across a mile’s distance, up and down.  It’s really something to witness, especially in the theater.  And this highly impressive technical craft is an adjunct to this oft preachy but pretty striking film.

written by David Ashley

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