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[FILM] "Children of Men" - Tales of a Future to be Feared

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  • madchinaman
    Children of Men The intense Children of Men is set in a near future to give us pause today. CRITIC S CHOICE By Kenneth Turan, Times Staff Writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2006
      'Children of Men'
      The intense "Children of Men" is set in a near future to give us
      pause today. CRITIC'S CHOICE
      By Kenneth Turan, Times Staff Writer

      The best science fiction talks about the future to talk about the
      now, and "Children of Men" very much belongs in that class. Made with
      palpable energy, intensity and excitement, it compellingly creates a
      world gone mad that is uncomfortably close to the one we live in. It
      is a "Blade Runner" for the 21st century, a worthy successor to that
      epic of dystopian decay.

      Like that earlier film, "Children of Men" is based on a novel (P.D.
      James this time, not Philip K. Dick) and deals with the question of
      the future of human life. It brings so much urgency to the
      possibility of the world ending that we feel the kind of terror we
      would if the scenario were taking place tomorrow instead of 20 years
      in the future.

      Also, in Alfonso Cuarón, "Children of Men" has a strong director with
      a powerhouse visual sense who is at home with both action sequences
      and philosophical concerns. Cuarón, with such widely diverse films
      as "A Little Princess" and "Y Tu Mamá También" behind him,
      demonstrates once again that no genre is beyond his mastery.

      The plot hook of "Children of Men" is simple but devastating: the
      infertility of the entire human race. The date is 2027, and it's been
      18 years since the Earth's last human child was born. James, whose
      novel has been altered considerably by the film's five credited
      screenwriters, says she wrote it to answer the question, "If there
      were no future, how would we behave?" The answer, in a word, is

      For what "Children of Men" shows us is a world coming apart at the
      seams. Britain, where the story is set, has survived by becoming a
      chaotic police state in which rioters fueled by pure fury attack
      whatever moves and heavily armed police and savage dogs keep a close
      eye on ever-present refugees stuffed into sidewalk holding
      tanks. "Renouncers" flog themselves for the forgiveness of humanity,
      public service ads insist "The world has collapsed, only Britain
      soldiers on," and an underground group called the Fishes fights for
      equal rights for that flood of immigrants.

      This, again like "Blade Runner," is an undeniably pulpy premise, but
      two things elevate "Children of Men": One is the sheer forcefulness
      of the storytelling, the other the film's brilliant visual look and

      The story line here is again quite simple. A disheartened bureaucrat
      named Theo (Clive Owen, master of the disillusioned look) has cut
      himself off from most human contact except for an old friend and
      hippie drug dealer named Jasper (Michael Caine in a way we've not
      seen him before).

      This all changes when Theo comes face to face with Julian (Julianne
      Moore), his old flame who turns out to be part of the leadership of
      the Fishes. She and her lieutenant, Chiwetel Ejiofor's Luke, want his
      help in procuring exit visas for a young refugee woman named Kee
      (Clare-Hope Ashitey). It will surprise no one who has
      noticed "Children of Men" is opening on Christmas Day that,
      astonishingly, Kee is with child.

      Theo reluctantly agrees to help, and all kinds of unexpected
      complications follow in the wake of that decision. Everyone has
      agendas within agendas, and even simple notions, like the importance
      of getting Kee to safety, turn out to mean different things to
      different people. And, because of Kee's urgent condition, every
      decision is taken under the ever-higher pressure of increasingly dire
      time constraints.

      The critical factor in helping keep that tension at a high pitch,
      critical in getting us to take seriously what could be a lurid
      premise, is Cuarón's skill in not only motivating his actors but also
      in creating such a ferocious sense of forward momentum that
      everything feels more real — and more terrifying — than would seem

      Essential here is exceptional work by production designers Jim Clay
      and Geoffrey Kirkland, who create a world of garbage and decay that
      looks both contemporary and futuristic. Most remarkable of all is
      what Cuarón's longtime director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki has
      accomplished by shooting entirely hand-held with few lights, greatly
      increasing the film's verisimilitude. Although everyone will notice
      the bravura work of camera operator George Richmond during one
      continuous seven-minute-plus battle scene, the skill of the
      cinematography team carries the film from the beginning to the end.

      Perhaps most delicate of all is the way director Cuarón has
      made "Children of Men" comment on the problems society faces today,
      crises involving racism, terrorism, decaying infrastructure,
      threatened environment, government-inspired paranoia and more.

      This is a world of rubble, fear and hopelessness whose connections to
      our own are never forced; Cuarón is such a fluid director with such a
      powerful imagination, they don't have to be. This could well be our
      future, and we know it.


      "Children of Men." MPAA rating: R for strong violence, language, some
      drug use and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. Opens
      Monday exclusively at Pacific's Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, L.A.,
      (323) 692-0829, and AMC Century City, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.,
      (310) 289-4AMC.
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