© 2007 Ray Wong
Based on P.D. James's novel, Children of Men delivers a grim future that is familiar yet alien: An apocalyptic glimpse of a world that is both frightening and fascinating, yet offering a sliver of hope at the end.
The year is 2027 and the world is in chaos due to the fact that humans can no longer procreate. The death of the youngest human on Earth sends the world into intense grief. Theo (Owen) is a former activist who now leads a sterile life not caring about the world around him. When his former lover, Julian (Moore), contacts him about transporting a young Fuji named Kee (Askitey) to a sanctuary at sea called "Human Projects," Theo only agrees to do it for cash.
The trip soon turns into nightmares. More important, Theo discovers the secret of Kee -- she is pregnant. The miracle is phenomenal for the human race and everyone wants a piece of her. Theo finds himself sucked deeper and deeper into this conflict and yet he realizes he must do everything he can to protect Kee and get her to safety. The future of mankind literally depends on her and her baby.
Clive Owen (Inside Man) is impressive as the dispassionate Theo, who rediscovers a heroic part of himself that he's long forgotten. Owen is moody, intense but casual, not your typical hero type. His disarming quality serves him very well. Julianne Moore (Freedomland) has a small but pivotal role that basically set the whole thing in motion. She's done a good job.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Inside Man) is convincing as fellow activist/terrorist Luke. You may not agree with his character's action, but you understand his motives; Ejiofor makes you empathize for him, given the situations. Claire-Hope Askitey (Shooting Dogs) impresses as Kee, the walking miracle who simply wants to have a life with her baby. She exudes certain innocence that makes it easy for us to root for her.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive: Michael Caine (The Prestige) as Jasper, an award-winning political cartoonist who now lives in seclusion, Charlie Hunnam (Cold Mountain) as Patric, a ruthless activist who has no regard for human lives, Danny Huston (Alpha Male) as Nigel, Theo's political friend, Pam Ferris (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) Mariam, as the devoted midwife attending to Kee, and Peter Mullan (Cargo) as Syd, an unstable military type who helps Theo and Kee escape.
The script by Alfonso Cuarón's team (Y tu mamá también) is meticulous and well-conceived. I haven't read the original novel so I can't compare it with the film, but the film version is riveting and raw. As a thriller, boy does this film thrill. As a political drama, it serves its purpose without hitting us on the head with its "message." The pacing is excellent, and the tension is insurmountable. Cuarón also has a great way of surprising and enthralling the audience. There are times when they have to give out information in dialogue that feels too expository; but given the complexity of the story and the amount of time they have to tell it, I am okay with that.
What Cuarón truly excels is his execution of the film. The incredible sets, coupled with seamless special effects, have created a world that is disturbing and yet familiar. The writer-director also does not shy from extreme violence and gruesome close-ups, but nothing feels gratuitous -- they are essential parts of the storytelling. There are many memorable moments in the film, from the chaotic streets of London to the tortures in the refugee camps to the birth of Kee's baby. There's one particularly impressive scene that will surely go down in movie history: an intense combat scene with complicated stunts, pyrotechnics, acting, and precise choreography, all shot in one extended take. It's amazing.
Children of Men is not for everyone. It's gritty, gruesome, and raw. It's also a beautifully produced piece of art that will haunt the audiences long after they've left the theaters.
Stars: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Claire-Hope Askitey, Pam Ferris, Danny Huston, Peter Mullan
Director: Aflonso Cuarón
Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby (based on novel by P.D. James)
MPAA Rating: R for intense violence, language, drug use and brief nudity
Running Time: 109 minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 9
Cinematography – 9
Editing – 8
Production – 9
Total – 8.3 out of 10