‘Children of Men’ (2006)

Children of Men ‘ premiered at the Venice Film Festival this past September, with a subsequent roll-out in much of Western Europe. Children , as Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film ( Y Tu Mama Tambien ,2001; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban , 2004), has been billed as science-fiction, but it’s really not. Partially based on a cynical futurist novel by P.D. James, ‘The Children of Men’, is set in the 2nd quarter of the 21st c., after mankind has suddenly and unexpectedly become infertile. In the book, men all over the world have started shooting blanks, but in the movie, the blame is somehow shifted to women.

Clive Owen stars in this film, set in destabilized Britain, that’s been transformed into the Belfast of yore, due to the worldwide terrorist escalations — due to worldwide infertility, the U.K. has become one of the few States left in Europe and has sealed it’s borders much as they did during WWII.

Many of the reviews I’ve read bill this film as a quintessential post-9/11 movie 1 , instead, I see the film as something of a record of Central and South America, representing the conditions that have existed for the past 30 or 40 years. There’s an overwhelming sense of siege to the movie — no one is secure in their persons and a bomb can go off anywhere , at a moment’s notice, just as anyone can be seized off the street in broad daylight, have a sack lowered over their head and join the disappeared . Rather than some dystopian future security-state, the circumstances depicted in ‘Children of Men’ have existed in Latin America since before the second-half of the 20th c., just as they persist today.

For all of the praise that ‘The Fountain’ got as a ‘visually stunning’ film, Children of Men is actually better looking. And it sports an extended Julianne Moore cameo. But the one aspect of CoM that fails is that it runs out of plot in the last half-hour or so. Though the politics of CoM are both sexual and racial, Cuaron doesn’t make a strong effort at pushing those buttons — if it’s real science-fiction that gives it’s premise proper consideration, the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s ‘ The Handmaid’s Tale ‘ is still a better film.

Comparisons to this summer’s ‘V for Vendetta’ are also inevitable, however CoM manages to make its way without playing tricks on either the audience or its protagonist – CoM is played as a straight story all the way through.

Much has been made of the fact that Clive Owen makes it through the film without firing a gun or striking anyone in close combat, but let it be said that Owen does wield a mean car door, especially when he’s trying to dispatch his adversaries. OTOH, there’s a certain exhiliration to seeing Owen and Michael Caine in the same film, as if to witness a rutual passing of the baton. If only Owen could find a film to match his talents…

Universal isn’t going to make any money off of this when it is finally released Stateside on December 25th, but it’s probably worth checking out, all the same. The challenges of the 3rd-World in the 1st-World still haven’t managed to be answered by ‘The Constant Gardener’ and ‘The Quiet American’, but CoM does manage to communicate a specific sense of place that the other movies fail to convey, just as the circumstances of the film are a very real part of our present.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

From http://www.scifimoviepage.com/childrenofmen.html :

  1. Like the recent V for Vendetta , Children of Men isn’t really about the future, but about our post-9/11 present. Europeans, and in particular Brits, will find the obsession with illegal immigrants and radical Islamism, the decline in civil liberties and the concept of zero population growth familiar, if grossly exaggerated. It is this gross exaggeration that makes it fair to describe Children of Men as a satire of contemporary times (remember, satires needn’t be funny).

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