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"Children of Men"

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Written by Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby.  Based on the novel by P.D. James.
Starring Clive Owen, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  1/3/07


Even though I saw this after the new year, I'm sneaking this one into 2006 reviews since I imagine it will be in consideration for Oscar talks when the nominees are released in a few weeks.  Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", does great work here in "Children of Men"...but, as good as the film is, I was surprised that I had to ask myself a basic question: just WHY are women infertile in this near-future setting?

While you are in the theater, this is almost a secondary conversation, despite the fact that the driving plot of this film is based on man's inability, in 2027, to conceive children.  Or maybe it is women's inability to harvest said children...the point is, nobody's had a kid in 18 years, and when the film opens, the world's youngest remaining 18-year-old has died and the remaining society in London is left to grieve this loss.  Not that it matters to Theo (Clive Owen), who is already sold on the fact that the world is going to shit anyway...the human doesn't have even a hundred years left, so why sweat the details?  He changes his perspective a bit when he is kidnapped by...his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore), a resistance leader who needs him to acquire transit papers for a "friend" of hers.  Why?  That friend, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), is the first pregnant woman in almost 20 years, and in order to keep her safe from the war-torn London of the future, Kee needs to be whisked to the Human Genome Project, which is really a boat, uh, somewhere, uh, far away.

So, all of this is just to say that "Children of Men" is mostly an adventure film, as Theo assists Kee in getting out of the city.  The action, of course, is tied to a very serious idea that our future would be bleak without the potential to spawn future would be even bleaker if we were still doing everything in our power to rob, rape and destroy what little we already have.  It is that which makes "Children of Men" such a stunning drama, such a watchable film and one that has such exhilarating sequences...and, why I ultimately didn't love the film so much as like it.

Five screenwriters, including Cuarón, have certainly made mincemeat of P.D. James' novel; without even having read the book, five cooks in the kitchen means that lots has been ripped from the book to get to the nitty-gritty.  One hopes that the book comes up with some kind of logic behind how it is that in just a couple of years, the human race has become completely infertile; I thought that some characters may have brought it up during the film, but it is never really explained as to how this could have happened.  Further, I still have no idea how Kee is the lucky one who was able to conceive...could someone have included even a five-minute roundup of how it is the human race could have come to this point?  I have to believe that this was considered but ultimately deemed unnecessary, odd because everyone on the resistance is fighting to keep this one jewel of a person alive.

What is here, though, is fantastic.  Owen and Ashitey are our partners for the majority of the film and both are excellent; cameos by Michael Caine, Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor are all excellent, too.  The action scenes are often running master shots that follow Owen around from bombed-out street to bullet-riddled bus/apartment building back to bombed-out street; these kinds of scenes are showing up more and more in films these days and you'll love the ones here because the intensity is just bad-ass.  The film's uneasy nature and random but bloody violence makes for an interesting sit; in many ways, "Children of Men" thrills you as a bleak but very cool sci-fi film.

Again, even caught up in the moment, my main problem with the film is its decision to bypass pertinent information about why everyone is in the situation that they are in.  But, as a fast-paced thriller, "Children of Men" is a great mix of big-budget and arthouse sensibilities that may make some noise at the Academy Awards.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09