Saturday, May 12, 2007

Movie Review: "Children of Men"

Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Pam Ferris, Danny Huston, Peter Mullan
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Official Web site

Like many films set in the future, “Children of Men” doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Set in the year 2027, there have been some technological advances, as could be expected. But the human race itself has largely regressed, and is even on the verge of extinction, due to the sudden and unexplained infertility of women. No more children means no more humans in less than 100 years.

As the film opens, the youngest person on earth, an almost symbolic figure of the absence of youth in the world, has died at the age of 18. Much of society has collapsed into anarchy, with England serving as the last vestige of hope. And even that beacon of light is dimming, with foreigners being hoarded into camps, while many citizens are in full-scale rebellion against the totalitarian government.

A group of rebels, led by Julian (Julianne Moore) and Luke (Chiwetel Ojiofor) have in their possession a potentially society-altering person named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey). Initially against his will, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is pulled into the impending showdown between the rebels and the government. He’s recruited to transport Kee to a mysterious group known as “The Human Project.” Desperate for money and as a favor to Julian, his ex-wife with whom he had a son many years prior, he agrees to help. But it’s only when Kee reveals to Theo that she’s very much pregnant does he realize the true significance of the mission.

The story, adapted from a novel by P.D. James, is tackled by five writers, including director Alfonso Cuaron. Like “Blade Runner,” with which it shares a jaded and flawed hero at its center, “Children of Men” is a bleak film in tone, yet it never really feels like a depressing movie watching experience.

Credit for that goes to the cast members, who uniformly draw indelible character portraits, despite the short amount of screen time for some. Owen, as the protector of a woman who could signify the rejuvenation of the human race, gives a powerful performance playing a man who finds a new purpose to his life after years of alcoholism and depression. Of the supporting cast, Michael Caine provides the only real comic relief in the movie as an aging self-sufficient hippie who is one of Theo’s few friends.

But where the film really shines the brightest is on the technical side, with some sensational – and even groundbreaking – cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki that brings a genuine bit of excitement to the film’s several action sequences. Choosing to use extended takes with a single camera, Cuaron puts the viewer right into the middle of the action, as it seemingly develops in real time before your eyes. It gives the film a bit of a documentary feel at times, with droplets of blood even landing on the camera lens at one point, as Theo dashes for cover from gunfire.

“Children of Men” thankfully doesn’t let itself get bogged down in social and political issues too much, nor does it delve into the cause of why women haven’t been able to have babies since 2009 (the movie essentially shrugs its shoulders on this). However, the struggle between the government and the rebels is a bit too cloudy at times, while the rest of the world’s ills that have led to England being a country for refugees to seek out is unfortunately not addressed.

But as a movie depicting a future that isn’t actually that impossible to imagine, “Children of Men” has some real resonance in present time.

Grade: B+
(Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity.)

No comments: