Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: Children of Men


It's a pity that films of a caliber like Children of Men receive such a limited theatrical release before sharing space with utter tripe on the DVD shelves. Savvy science fiction rarely gets this palatial. Upon my first viewing, I was reminded of Gattica - another highly developed movie that displayed a lot of substance driven by core ideas reflecting the basic sci-fi principals. Both films showcase elite ideas within the genre. If a film like Battlefield Earth is the celluloid equivalent of a t-shirt and thongs , then Children of Men is a designer suit . . .

Children of Men (like the Wachowski Brothers V for Vendetta), is set in the not-so-distant future where fascism has taken hold of a democratic England. Years ago such a scenario might have been laughable - but with Western countries obliterating civil liberties in our own three dimensional world at a frightening pace, the paranoia inherent in the writer's message is obvious: This could be a reality, and creative people will never stand for it.

It's London, 2027. November 16th to be precise. Fresh from his role in the film Inside Man, Clive Owen is Theo Faran . . . a man immersed in a gritty world where factions are carrying out bombings in residential areas on a daily basis. The future is as one would expect: giant screens are plastered to the sides of skyscrapers like gargantuan LCD monitors broadcasting government propaganda. Every street corner is New York's Times Square. This approach representing the future may cause some disbelief. After all, we're living in the future - and it didn't quite pan out the way the previous generations envisioned. Such a backdrop is not the crux of the story, however. The root of the narrative lies with the haunting reality that in this future, having children is a long-lost dream. During the opening sequence we are informed through news feed and flashbacks that our DNA is at an end. Mother Nature has decided to pull the plug, so to speak, and the youngest person to exist is only nineteen years of age. Because of this the world burns, and England (survivalist nation that it is) has somehow come out of the carnage relatively unscathed. Keeping illegal immigrants out has become the government's top priority . . . and harboring them is a major crime.

Theo is reeled in by an old American flame (Julianne Moore) to help with some logistics regarding an immigrant . . . a very special immigrant. Thankfully, Julianne does not play an A-list role, and her character is used sparingly and to great effect. Halfway through we're treated to scenes that will make your jaw drop. I say this because of the original techniques used: there is a lengthy car sequence that appears as if it is shot in only one take using astonishing camera rigs that defy conventional film-making. This continues right throughout the film's duration, setting itself up with some real hackle-raising moments.

Michael Caine plays the supporting role of Jasper to perfection as one of Theo's scapegoats when Theo runs afoul of the authorities and terrorist factions. A hippie-intellectual enclosed by despotism, he surround's himself with Beatle-esque tunes that give the film a certain English verisimilitude and add some light panache to what is otherwise a very bleak film ensconced in the dark futility of the future.

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