Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Movie Review: Children of Men

Terrorism. Illegal immigration. Racism. Religion. Inhumane refugee camps. Euthanasia. The divide between rich and poor. Global warming. All of these features of our modern world are prophetically envisioned in Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of PD James's dystopian Children of Men. We are in London in 2027 and the world has fallen headlong into violence and moral chaos as a result of oppressive government policies and the fact that there are no children left on the planet. The world is in shock as they gaze at the ubiquitous TV screens where newsreaders are announcing that the youngest person alive (an 18 year old) has just died. The future is hopeless -- women are infertile (for some unknown reason) and avoiding governmental fertility checks is a crime. A group of scientists are rumoured to be working on the problem of women's infertility -- The Human Project. Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a one-time activist, lives moment to moment in this world surviving on alcohol and cigarettes and an unfulfilling job. Walking the streets is dangerous -- bomb blasts can rock the streets at any moment; gangs roam the roads attacking at random and harassing civilians. The streets are littered with filth and vermin and illegal immigrants are hoarded into wire cages for transportation to refugee camps. Governments operate on the basis of fear. It's a grim but believable world. Theo's world (such as it is) is turned upside down when he is kidnapped by a band of underground activists who want him to obtain travel documents so they can escort a black woman out of the city to safety. He discovers she is pregnant. As far as anyone knows, she is the only woman to be pregnant in the whole world. Suddenly, she becomes the centre of political rivalry -- whoever has her will have power. Theo decides to help her travel to a meeting point out at sea where she can be taken by ship to The Human Project -- a sanctuary of safety where her child can be cared for. On the way, he is helped by the eccentric Jasper (Michael Caine) who lives in an isolated house caring for his wife who is now a non-responsive survivor of brutal torture -- torture by her own government justified by the fear of terrorism. Children of Men is superbly shot with depressing colour and a brilliant rendering of a future world that is not so different from the present to be unrecognisable, but very different in so many significant ways. Cuaron has taken incredible risks in bring this story to the screen. Every shot is laden with incredible detail and, if you can take it all in fast enough, the backgrounds contain allusions to an array of contemporary issues that trouble our planet so that, in every scene, there is a shock of recognition. The acting in this film is excellent and conveys a constant sense of anxiety. Children of Men is saturated with ideas about issues that should concern us all. There are a number of biblical allusions in the film (eg, note the name Theo; a child with no known father; a traitor.) Some may feel let down by the ending. But that is only to undervalue the journey on the way. Children of Men is a thinking person's sci-fi drama/thriller that will haunt you. It's a demanding, intelligent, intense film that is most definitely worth the effort! My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review 'Based on the PD James novel, this futuristic London thriller is so well filmed and acted that it grabs hold of us and never lets go.' - Rich Cline/Film Focus Negative Review 'An ugly mix of contemporary issues is hacked to unrecognizable bits in this tame, at times insipid thriller trying to impress with impossibly generic analogies to our own time.' - Boyd van Hoeij/European-Films Content Warning Strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity AUS: MA15+ USA: R

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