Dir: Alfonso Cuaron. US-UK. 2006. 108mins.
Unwrap the fascinating dystopian visionof the near-future in Alfonso Cuaron's Children Of Men- based on the sci-fi novel by British literary baroness PD James - and youfind a fairly ordinary movie with stock characters. But if its backdrop andstory never quite coalesce into a satisfying whole, the film is saved by itssheer imaginative verve and by the terrific chase and battle sequences, whichreplace the usual fantasy rhetoric of the genre with a sense of real, cine-verite danger.
Unusual in its rejection ofthe widescreen format and extensive use of handheld camera, this edgily urbanfuture vision is not obvious multiplex material, particularly in the
But the controversy that maybe stirred by the film's clear political message about the dangers of 'homelandsecurity' should not trouble distributors, and may turn out to be apublicity-generating plus. Children Of Men is hardly going to be appeal anyway to the sort ofaudiences that would be bothered by its heavily-couched critique. The filmpremiered in competition at Venice.
The premise is neatly presentedvia an opening TV news bulletin about the death of the world's youngest person- who is over 18 years old. Women suddenly started becoming infertile somewherearound 2007, and soon stopped having babies altogether. The consequence, by theyear 2027, is a world without hope, in which anarchy is rife and most countriesare in a state of chaos. Only
This is not the Orwellian dictatorshipof 1984 nor the neo-fascist regime ofV For Vendetta, but a more credibledegraded democracy in which London looks pretty much like today - except thatit's even dirtier, there are more soldiers around, desperate bands roam the streets,the rich live in gated compounds and the capital's black taxis have been replacedby moped-rickshaws. The government encourages citizens to report 'fugees' to the police and hands out suicide kits for anyonewho wants to take the quick way out.
Clive Owen plays Theo, a washed-outformer activist who now holds down a government job and drinks to forget. Contactedby a radical group known as the Fishes, which is led by his former lover, Julian(Julianne Moore), he is persuaded to arrange safe passes for - and eventually accompany- Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey),a black African 'fugee' who has somehow managed toget pregnant.
Though Theo is provided withsome backstory details intended to generate audience sympathy,he rarely rises much above the 'reluctant hero' cliche, and the other characters are even less rounded. Theone exception is the pot-smoking counter-culture hermit played by Michael Caine, who we begin to care about just before he leaves thescene.
The inventive use of
The quirky soundtrack mixes modernclassical requiems, such as a specially-composed theme oratory by John Tavener, with a raft of songs from The Libertines, Pink Floydand others.
But it's the photography andediting that impress above all else. ChildrenOf Men takes a leaf out of Paul Greengrass' book, proving, as in Bloody Sunday and United 93,that the long takes and mobile, handheld camera style of the TV newsdocumentary can be used to rack up the tension and the believabiltyof the thriller and action-adventure genres.
Hit And Run Productions
Thomas A Bliss
Timothy J Sexton
based on the novel by PD James