Children of Men (2006)

Genre(s): Drama / Fantasy / Mystery / Science Fiction / Thriller
Universal || R - 109 minutes || 2007-01-05
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2007-01-11

.:: F I L M ::.

Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Danny Huston, Claire-Hope Ashity, Peter Mullan, Pam Ferris

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Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men explores a not too distant future where women are infertile, illegal immigration reform is taken to the extreme and Britain is a totalirian society. Children of Men is similar to the 2003 Tim Robbins’ thriller, Code 46, in which the world is made up of governments with iron fists and those without permission to move about from country to country live on the edge.

I rented Code 46 a couple years back and it’s an interesting concept -- and a unique take of a realistic future without the stereotypical sci-fi genre crap --, I had a real hard time getting into the story or finding sympathy for any of the characters. I could say the same thing about Children of Men except the two primary characters were written with poise and emotion that it was hard not to have sympathy.

Children of Men takes place 20 years in the future where we meet Theodore Faron (Owen; Inside Man), a former activist now going through the daily grind in this grim world getting older with each day. When we meet him, the youngest person on Earth, an 18-year-old, had been killed, and everyone, except for Faron, mourns for the young man’s life. His sole reprieve from the depressing world is old friend, Jasper Palmer (Caine; Batman Begins), a crackpot -- I mean that in both ways -- who lives in the wilderness away from society with his beloved wife who has been a catatonic state for some time.

One day Faron is kidnapped and taken to a secret location where he is reunited with his estranged ex-wife, Julian (Moore; The Forgotten), the leader of a guerilla-like leftist faction that fights the government. Julian wants him to help transport a young woman named Kee (Ashitey) to the coast but the only way to do it is to obtain papers which Faron has access to through his cousin (Huston; The Constant Gardener), a man higher up in the government. Faron soon discovers the woman he is helping is pregnant and could help in the rebels fight against the oppressive government.

Why I didn’t give Children of Men a better rating was because even though director Cuarón had the best intentions -- not to mention one of the most visually awesome movies in 2006 --, I never felt much sympathy for these characters. Maybe it was the vagueness of the plot as it is never explained why women cannot get pregnant. Is it pollution? Government experiment gone wrong? We don’t know. We also do not know how the world became so chaotic and why Britain is seemingly the last country on Earth that has managed the crisis. I’m sure Cuarón and all the fans will point out that that was the point. Normally I’m a follower of the “less is more” policy in movies as it allows the viewer to get entrapped with the story and characters rather than over-the-top visual effects or complicated/convoluted apocalyptic plot points, but here because I didn’t connect with the characters, I had little else to hold onto with this story.

Cuarón also implements a variety of political subjects ranging from illegal immigration (in the film, illegals are kept in cages while they wait to being deported and, some of them, are killed) to the Abu Grabe scandal. Personally, I’m more independent and while Hollywood has always been known for taking a left position, I can normally look past outright political messages so long as it pertains the story (e.g. V for Vendetta). However, with Children of Men, I didn’t see the necessity of bringing up these topics with the illegal immigration having a prominent place.

Politics and story issues aside, I have no problem recommending Children of Men. The movie features amazing visuals by Cuarón and a solid performance from Clive Owen. Owen’s performances over the years have ranged from average to very good, depending on the script. He doesn’t have the range as most (wannabe) stars yet he still has a unique charisma that propels his characters.

The supporting cast does their duty but some of them, primarily Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, Inside Man) and Julianne Moore, failed to make an impression. In Moore’s case, she makes what is more of a cameo appearance with maybe 10-minutes of screen time. They try to establish Owen and Moore’s relationship, why they split and why he ultimately left the activist movement and went into a state of pessimism and solitude. Problem is, Owen and Moore barely have enough time to make that connection and thus making the audience connect with either.

As I stated earlier, despite my issues with the story, I feel Children of Men is worthy of some of the attention it’s received. Cuarón manages to tell multiple things in one shot and his style alone makes this a worthy venture and one of the better films this year. Not great, but better than the majority I’ve seen.