Children of Men (2006)
Children of Men (2006)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: December 25th, 2006 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Alfonso Cuaron Actors: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julianne Moore, Charlie Hunnam, Danny Huston, Tehmina Sunny, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Peter Mullan

 


 

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t’s rare to find a film so utterly engrossing that, from the opening scene to the scrolling credits, the simple act of passively watching flickering images has been altogether superseded by the immersive experience of taking in each individual technical and artistic element, mentally interacting with the thought-provoking themes, and being moved by the composite affect of visual and aural storytelling. “Children of Men” is one of these elusive productions, a tale of a futuristic world thrown into chaos after women mysteriously lose the ability to bear children. With realistic set designs, breathtaking cinematography, taut portrayals of a people on the brink of destruction, and some of the most intensely realized action sequences ever filmed, “Children of Men” is a contemporary science-fiction masterwork, strikingly adapted from the novel by P.D. James and directed with precision by Alfonso Cuaron.

In a not-too-distant London – the only remaining city that hasn’t destroyed itself from the panic of the nearing extinction of mankind – men scramble to find hope amidst the steadily crumbling, war-torn streets, wherein reproduction has ceased due to widespread infertility, and days feel crushingly numbered. One such man is Theodore Faron (Clive Owen), a listless former activist who has lost touch with humanity, save for visits with his jovial old friend Jasper (Michael Caine). When a resistance force led by Theo’s ex-wife (Julianne Moore) kidnaps and then bribes him into protecting and transporting the inexplicably pregnant refugee girl Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), Theo embarks on a perilous mission fraught with danger, deception, and possibly the final hope for the prosperity of mankind.

The acting in this intense sci-fi thriller borders on perfection. Clive Owen is sensationally cast as the mercenary antihero merely going through the motions of living out his doomed existence. With the sparked interest of seeing his wife again, and the desire to protect the fragile potential for solving the propagation crisis, he recognizes a chance at redemption and a new light in the darkening world around him. He’s a classically conflicted, rough and rugged antihero in the vein of Rick Deckard – the protagonist of “Blade Runner,” from which this picture deviates considerably in its stylization and rejection of glamorous, neon-drenched hi-tech. Chiwetel Ejiofor embodies the antagonist, here with keen deception and a calm demeanor as an ally turned betrayer for the most potent kind of treachery. And, as always, Michael Caine manages to steal every scene he’s in with effortless, offbeat comedic charm, as Theo’s jocose drug-smuggling pal and confidant.

With numerous first-person shots and a camera that closely follows Faron’s movements during heavy-hitting action, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the bedlam of the documentarian/cinema verite style of shooting and editing that juxtapose horrific, fictionalized components of warfare with equally petrifying historical incidents, referenced through subtle poses, background sounds and imagery, or bold allusions to modern armed-conflict atrocities; present-day parallels and realistic visuals are commonplace motifs in Cuaron’s painstakingly constructed allegory of hope and faith. One extended sequence in particular is especially jaw-dropping as the camera refuses to cut away from Theo as he treks through a besieged hotel, crumbling around him from a tank assault initiated outside. Blood, dirt, and smoke from the ongoing firefight assail the unflinching viewfinder as it captures incredible detail and seamless continuity (even if CG aids in the gimmick), and inserts the audience directly into the midst of the pandemonium.

Though no reasons are given for the disastrous events that mark the onset of the film’s chief dystopian dilemma (Cuaron doesn’t much care for exposition or even routine dialogue, as words are never minced between his characters), the reasons to see this film are abundantly clear. It’s accomplishments in artistry and narrative transcend the genre it dabbles in (it’s a very un-sci-fi science-fiction film, devoid of flashy technology or flying vehicles or distracting special effects) to paint a portrait of self-awareness and identity as the antihero transitions from desperate to aspirant. There’s love, drama, humor, action, adventure, and tragedy. And the aesthetics of the cinematography and the power of the acting are undeniable. This is movie magic at its finest.

– The Massie Twins

  • 9/10