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Children of Men

Review Written by: Joe Earp
Film: A+
What the MPAA Rating should be: PG-13 (for some strong violence and brief language)

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby
Based on the book by: P.D. James
Produced by: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Hilary Shor, Iain Smith and Tony Smith
Starring: Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Michael Caine, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Danny Huston, Julianne Moore
Studio: Universal Pictures

If there was one piece of advice I could give to anyone going to see Children of Men, it would be this: always keep your eyes in the corner of the frame. In Alfonso Cuaron's contemporary masterpiece, more happens around the edge of the shots than the centre. As the exhausted hero Theo (Clive Owen) stalks through the dilapidated city of London, in the background we slowly watch a world go mad. Refugees locked in wrought iron cages; bloodthirsty policemen barely containing their glee as they release vicious looking blood hounds; and news telecasts advertising 'Quietus', an easy to use suicide kit.

The film opens on the most pessimistic note imaginable: the world's youngest human has just passed away. The world as we know it is teetering on the edge of absolute destruction. The human race faces extinction. But this is only the beginning. Faced with the knowledge of their own impending doom, ordinary men and women are searching for a way to save themselves, whether it be joining a dangerous cult known as the Repenters, or quietly smoking hash as the world goes to hell (a method exemplified by Michael Caine's bitterly funny Jasper). Almost every scene in the film is a violent attack aimed at some facet of our society, whether it be the church, the government or the army. The film is almost relentlessly downbeat as it viciously ravages everything about our modern world. No-one is safe in Cuaron's Godless, muck encrusted world.

Much has been said about the obvious faults in the screenplay and there are a few. The comic relief is, but for a few exceptions, surprisingly poor. Now and again some of the dialogue sounds a bit clunky, especially in the mouths of some rather stiff actors. Only Clive Owen and Cuaron's camera really shine. Although this isn't such a bad thing. The film is so audaciously brilliant these are but minor quibbles. The awkward jokes and rather muted performances (surprisingly, Julianne Moore comes across worst) are completely outweighed by exceptional scenes of powerful honesty.

Just as Jean-Luc Godard used contemporary locations for his futuristic saga Alphaville, so does Cuaron ground his madness in all too believable locales. If one were to see the film completely out of context, they could almost assume it takes place in our twisted modern distopia. For a sci-fi film, Children of Men is disturbingly realistic. Not only are the streets of future London far distanced from the epic cityscapes of a film like Blade Runner even the characters too strike the audience as being painfully believable. This is a film without Harrison Ford-like heroes or dark villains surrounded by deep shadow, clad in black. Instead we are faced with an assortment of very, very afraid, lost and confused human beings. Martin Scorsese may have said his film The Departed was 'moral ground zero' but its vicious characters aren't half as scary as Cuaron's hysterical masses.

The very fact Children of Men missed out on any major Golden Globe nominations is a disgrace. Who knows why such a powerful, disturbing, nihilistic, godless, beautiful, wonderful, unforgettable film was completely ignored. Sci-fi is a genre that rarely inspires serious thought, but Children of Men leaps over the expectations usually associated with such films, joining such inspirational works as Solaryis and the aforementioned Alphaville and Blade Runner. Thus it is with utter conviction that I say Children of Men is hands down the best film of 2006.

Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in the futuristic thriller Children of Men.
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