a critiQal film review Children of Men (2006)

Plot: It's 2027 and it's been 18 years since a baby was born. Theo (Owen) has given up - until he is tapped by a former lover (Moore) to save mankind by escorting a young pregnant woman (Ashitey) out of the country. In a race against "friend" and foe alike, Theo will risk everything to save the miracle the whole world has been waiting for.

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This weekend, I decided to rent a couple of films that I had wanted to see. Children Of Men was the first.

The trailers for Children of Men had piqued my interest near the end of last year. Since I’m a big fan of dystopian visions on-screen, the premise of a world with no kids seemed like a great premise for a film. While it had the possibility of being a movie with a great premise that ends up being entirely wasted, having director Alfonso Cuarón behind it helped soothe those fears. But, would he be able to bring this unique vision into vivid life?

Clive Owen is really coming into his own lately, as his roles in Derailed (2005) and Sin City (2005) have shown. He typically plays characters that are today’s answer to the action heroes of the 80’s: characters which are thrust into crazy situations, and bumble their way through them, arriving on top eventually more through coincidence and luck than with any real skills at their disposal. These characters don’t spout catchy one-liners, rarely have an arsenal at their disposal, and end up with at least emotional damage.

With those bygone heroes, the viewer connected on a base level, living out their action fantasies vicariously through their larger-than-life on-screen alter-egos. Those heroes got the adrenaline pumping, despite being mostly one-dimensional. A film starring Arnold, Bruce or Sly wasn’t complete without popcorn, and was punctuated with laughs and incredible feats of daring. Those heroes laughed in the face of danger…and the audience laughed with them, simply and easily.

The new type of hero, however (as is evident in Children Of Men), is a much different sort. Far from being on top of his game at the start of the film, Clive’s character Theo is a drunk who’s basically given up on life. As old ties thrust him into a strange new situation (complete with incredible consequences to the very future of mankind), Theo bends under the pressure…but never quite breaks. The only thing keeping him from falling apart completely? For the first time in years, he has a glimmer of hope that life may be worth living after all.

Clive does a great job of portraying this character going through his own inner journey while at the same time having to deal with the more physical trials going on around him. He doesn’t create a character that changes in steps – the change is much more gradual after the initial push, and the audience is able to grow with the character much easier that way. The audience connects with his character on a much more emotional level, and leave the film feeling somewhat drained, as the emotional toll of Children of Men is quite high.

The other characters are also portrayed well by the actors, with Julianne Moore being a surprising stand-out. A lot of times, Julianne’s acting, while decent, is slightly one-dimensional, and the viewer gets a bit tired of it by the end of the film. With Children Of Men, she doesn’t get enough on-screen time for her acting to start to grate a little on the audience, and she will be remember much better by the audience because of it.

The rest of the cast also do very good jobs in their roles. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a gun-toting rebel leader to perfection, while Michael Caine gives a memorable hippie-induced portrayal in his role as Theo’s mentor. Even newcomer Clare-Hope Ashitey gives an impressive performance as Kee, the unlikely hope of humankind.

Director Alfonso Cuarón does a great job bringing to life a brilliant script in Children Of Men. He’s able to bring out the best in his actors, and does a great job of keeping the viewer involved in a future that is almost too real for comfort. He makes this dystopian society so real, and convinces the viewer that this future is only a slight step to the left from where society is today. Children Of Men is a bit scary in it’s ability to bring this future world to life…and is as much a social commentary on society today as it is a futuristic film.

If you’re looking for some mindless action and fun that make you slightly nostalgic for the cheesy action movies of the 80’s, then Children Of Men is not for you. However, If you’re looking more for a film that will make you think, and that may cause you to question the direction in which the world is going, you could definitely do a lot worse.

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