At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Children of Men “06”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action Thriller/ Stars: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Pam Ferris, Peter Mullan, Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi, Danny Huston, Oana Pellea, Paul Sharma, Jacek Koman, Ed Westwick/Runtime: 109 minutes

I think it is safe to start this review off by saying that now more than ever it really is a increasing rarity to locate a slice of cinema that is so completely and entirely riveting that from the moment it gets underway to the moment that the screen cuts to black and then the credits begin to roll, the usual act of just sitting down with a bowl of fresh out of the microwave popcorn and watching what is occurring on screen in front of you is now being put on the backburner. This is because instead you find yourself completely hooked and immersed in that slice of cinema to the point that you are not only taking in each component of the film from a technical aspect on an individual level, but you are also deep in thought on the complex themes that this distinct slice of cinema is choosing to operate with whilst also having your collection of emotions conjured up by the mixture of mood and visuals in terms of narrative regaling. The reason I bring this up is because I firmly believe that the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2006’s Children of Men, is one of those legendary films I was talking about. Indeed this is because everything from the set-designs that are wonderfully real, work from the cinematography department that is truly gorgeous, taut portrayals from a phenomenally gifted cast showing what it would like if civilization is on the cusp of just being completely and utterly annihilated, precise and on point helmsmanship from film helmer Alfonso Cuaron, and some of the most riveting and just taut as heck action beats that I have seen in quite a while, Children of Men might be a truly bleak cinematic ride, but it is also one of the best sci-fi movies of the past 2 decades and one that if you can stomach how dark and depressing it gets is most assuredly worth your time and so much more.

The plot is as follows: An adaptation of a novel by P.D. James, Children of Men gets its riveting yarn underway as we are dropped face first into a future version of our world that is very much like our own right now except perhaps with one key distinction. That being that this is a version of our world where for some unexplainable reason women are seemingly no longer fertile and thus incapable of helping add more people to the overall population count. As a result, mankind is starting to get the vibe that perhaps our days as the top species on the planet might just at long last be approaching their end. It is in this chaotic and apocalyptic landscape that we are dropped off in the city of London, one of the few cities that even with the panic overwhelming the globe of mankind’s imminent doom has yet to really tear itself apart even if there are hints here and there that perhaps it is only a matter of time before this occurs, and introduces us to our hero, a seemingly ordinary middle-aged man by the name of Theo. Theo, we soon learn, was once a passionate activist who if you had a cause worth protesting was your guy to help raise awareness, but who has since fallen into a severe alcohol and drug-fueled cynicism that has resulted in our intrepid hero all but losing touch with his inner humanitarian with the exception of the times where he gets the chance to just kick back and relax with his kindly and extremely easy going old pal/ drug dealer Jasper. However, we soon see Theo’s life thrown for a complete and utter tailspin when a group of resistance fighters who are being led by his ex-significant other Julian nab him off the streets and then pay him off to help them both keep a watchful eye on, and deliver to safety, a seemingly ordinary refugee girl by the name of Kee. However when Theo inadvertently stumbles upon the fact that this girl is, in fact, the first pregnant woman on the entire planet in the last 18 years, we see what started out as a simple transport assignment soon turn into a task comprised of equal parts peril and misdirection that has an outcome comprised of no more and no less than humanity’s last hope for their continual existence on this planet hanging in the balance.

Now when it comes to work being done behind the camera, every single department really truly is firing on all cylinders. Indeed in terms of camera work, we see that with quite a few p.o.v. camera shots from the first person perspective as well as the camera doing a terrific job of following Theo during the more potent action beats, it is hard not to find yourself wrapped up in the downright chaos present courtesy of the documentary method of both filming and editing that manages to blend together terrifying albeit made-up aspects of combat alongside just as terrifying incidents that actually happened that this slice of cinema chooses to allude to courtesy of nuanced poses and noises and things you see in the background amongst other things. Indeed modern day allusions and visuals that are as genuine as possible are fairly common components to this slice of cinema’s wonderfully built narrative of mankind relocating their hope and faith when it seems like both of those have been all but lost. One action beat in particular that I feel stands out more than the others is when we see the camera vehemently refuse to shy away from our hero as he makes his way through a chaos-stricken hotel that is falling apart all around him due to a tank battering away at it from outside. Indeed the action beats in this when they occur are both grounded in an wonderfully equal amount of perspiration and desperation and this one is no different as we see blood, grime, and smoke from the guns firing all lash out at the camera as it manages to both showcase a riveting degree of both vivid detail and continuity as well as placing you, the viewer head-on in the middle of all the chaos and anarchy. Finally, it is also worth noting that this movie’s score is also on point with everything else behind the camera in how it manages to fit the narrative perfectly as it starts out just as bleak, but by the end seems to contain a little bit more hope than when it started.

Now in terms of the work that is done in front of the camera, I can honestly say that darn near every single performance from this immensely talented cast in this potent and bleak entry in the sci-fi genre is top-flight in every sense of the word. Indeed as our main character, and quasi-sort of guide through this truly mad mad world, Theo I can honestly say that Clive Owen was a brilliant choice for a character that literally is just taking things day by day and acting more like he is just going through life fulfilling an already determined list of tasks before inevitably one day just passing on and that’ll be that. However with a spark being ignited in him courtesy of both being reunited with a woman he loved passionately as well as being assigned to protect Kee from various groups who wish to harm her and/or her child for their various schemes and machinations, we see that Theo soon sees that this is not only an opportunity for him to redeem himself for past mistakes, but that this is also a chance to light up a world that has been getting darker and darker as the days go by. Suffice it to say Owen does a wonderful job of giving us an antihero protagonist in the same vein as someone like Rick Deckard from Blade Runner in that both men find themselves becoming conflicted, but also are rough and tumble types who aren’t afraid to get into a scrape or two in order to get their assignments done. Now in the role of this slice of cinema’s antagonist, we get a truly terrific performance from immensely talented Chiwetel Ejiofor who does a terrific job of giving us a villain who is scary not because of how calmly he goes about his schemes or how sharp his deceptive ways turn out to be, but because of how fanatically devoted he is to his cause and seeing it through no matter what the cost. We also get wonderful low-key yet still quite effective work here from immensely talented actress Julianne Moore as Theo’s ex/requester of his assistance Julian Taylor. Indeed it might be a co-starring role, but Moore still brings to it the gravity and pathos that only an actress of her skill and talent could bring to the part. Of course, I would be completely in the wrong if I did not mention my favorite role in the movie. That would be the one played by one of my favorite actors Michael Caine in the role of Theo’s immensely jolly and easy going close friend/ drug smuggler Jasper who I swear could easily be this universe’s John Lennon (an aspect that makes sense when you learn that Caine in fact did take inspiration from Lennon, who was a close friend, for the role). Suffice it to say that it is another terrific performance from one of Britain’s most iconic thespians.

All in all I am not going to lie to you dear reader: If you go into this slice of cinema looking for it to explain just why this horrific calamity has occurred then you are going to be severely disappointed. Indeed, without going into spoilers of any sort, at no point during this slice of cinema’s runtime do we get a single reason for just why the calamity at the heart of this film’s apocalyptic nightmare that is ongoing as our film gets underway is ongoing, but to be fair film helmer Cuaron is not one to really care that much about providing us with much in the way of either exposition or dialogue you might hear in the day to day thus explaining why whenever characters speak to one another they really seem to be choosing their words very carefully. Yet despite this significant lack of explanation, I still think it can quite easily be said that the reasons for why you should most assuredly give this slice of cinema a chance are as clear as the finest crystal. Indeed what it is able to pull off both in terms of story and the artistry used to bring that story to life really go beyond the distinct genre of movie magic that this film is a part of (indeed this is a quite anti sci-fi movie that really does seem to be lacking by and large in terms of futuristic components or effects that might take away your focus away from everything of importance) in order to craft for us a sculpture of reclaiming one’s identity and humanity as we see our intrepid “hero” make the change from a cynical wreck to a human being again. Not only that, but this is one slice of cinema that has the whole range of emotions needed for a truly gripping story and the powerful work done both in front of and behind the camera truly cannot and should not be understated. Suffice it to say then that Children of Men is more than one of the best sci-fi slices of cinema of the past 2 decades. It is also proof that there is magic still to be located and appreciated in the world of cinema. We just have to know where to start looking and in that respect this slice of cinema is a mighty fine place to start. On a scale of 1-5 I give Children of Men “06” a solid 4 out of 5.