Monday, January 7, 2008

Children of Men - mini-review

This movie has been on my list of to-see-movies ever since AICN was raving about it last fall. It was on an HBO channel last night and I just devoured it, perched on the edge of my chair for much of the film. You gotta see it; it's bleak, it's science-fiction, and it's terribly well done.

Children of Men is not your usual sci-fi fare. It's a subgenre that doesn't get too much celluloid attention, the Mad Max trilogy notwithstanding: a post-apocalyptic not-too-far-from-our-future future. There are no aliens or spaceships. What there is is a shattered Earth in which all women have been infertile for twenty-seven years. The human race is dying - there are no new babies and the grown-ups are tearing themselves apart. Clive Owen plays Theo, a former activist who is enlisted by his ex, played by Julianne Moore, to help smuggle a refugee girl out of London. Kee, the refugee girl, is pregnant - by some unexplained miracle - and the fear is that everyone (militant nationalist revolutionaries, the militant national government) will want to use her baby to further their own agenda.

Clive Owen does a very good job as the reluctant hero, dragged out of the relative safety of his life to aid in the possible salvation of all life on the planet. Michael Caine, Theo's elderly pot-growing subversive friend, steals every scene he's in - and lives in a way-cool house.

Children of Men is adapted from [screenplay co-written by director Alfonso CuarĂ³n] the 1992 novel of the same name by P.D. James, whom I have long loved for her Adam Dagliesh murder mysteries. No one - not the characters, not the audience - knows why there are no more babies; the thing is, the world has become so terrible we're not sure anyone would want to bring any children into it even if they could. The movie is dark, violent and without very much hope for the fate of the world. There is ambiguity at the end, however, and the possibility that humankind may be saved after all. Whether they deserve it is another story altogether.

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