Children Of Men

4 stars


25th September 2006

Say what you will about Clive Owen, (for example that he's dull, almost completely inanimate, and has the charisma of Steve Davis on Ritalin), but there's no one out there more suited to the role of a disillusioned British bureaucrat. Whilst his King Arthur had all the dynamic leadership skills of the average Tory party candidate, his hangdog expression is a perfect fit for his latest role as Theo, a former radical that has since lost his passion for life, and has settled for a gloomy existence.

Children Of Men is based on P.D. James' novel of the same name, telling the story of our world in the mid-21st century, where no children have been born for 18 years. As the human race tries to come to terms with its own extinction, society is descending into nihilistic violence, and the world's governments react with increasingly draconian attempts at restoring order. The story begins with a bang, as a terrorist group detonate a bomb in a London café, an all to frequent occurrence in Theo's world. That same day, Theo falls in with one of the terrorist groups, and meets Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a young pregnant woman. Knowing that every warring faction - from the various terrorist groups to the fascist government - will look to exploit the pregnant girl for their own political ends, Theo decides that she must be transported to safety, which means breaking into a refugee camp then sailing offshore.

Like all good sci-fi, Children Of Men, whilst being set in the future, in firmly rooted in our time. Imagery from the Iraq war is lettered everywhere, from the 2003 protest leaflets dotted around the terrorist hideout, to the Abu Garibh-style humiliation of the detainees in the refugee camp. The government's repeated urges to "REPORT ANY SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOUR" and various TV adverts about uncontrolled immigration are the stuff of Daily Mail readers' wet dreams.

In terms of acting, all of the major players do a good job. Owen, as mentioned, is surprisingly good as the downtrodden pencil-pusher turned reluctant flip-flop wearing guardian of humanity. Julianne Moore is suitably idealistic as his ex-partner Julian (yes, she's a woman), still in deep with the Fishes: militants fighting for equal treatment of refugees. Michael Caine is likeable as Jasper, a former political cartoonist, and former radical friend of Theo. The supporting cast also turn in strong performances, with Ashitey in particular showing just the right combination of bafflement at her completely unprecedented pregnancy and maternal protective instinct.

Everything is stylishly filmed by director Alfonso Cuarón, especially as the long-promised 'uprising' kicks off. One stand-out shot sees a single blood-splattered steady-cam follow Theo through a running battle in the refugee camp, up to the top floor of a crumbling tower block, in a single take lasting a good couple of minutes. Over the top as it may sound, the climactic battle is every bit as visceral as anything in Saving Private Ryan. All told, this film was a very pleasant surprise. I've quite strongly disliked Clive Owen since King Arthur, and thought I could foresee a pretty lame twist judging from the trailer. Pleasingly, a few surprising character deaths aside, there's no big twist to get excited about or have spoiled by some shoddy reviewer such as myself. If you're after a good solid night's entertainment, with a contemporary political edge, you could do far worse than throw a fiver in Children Of Men's direction.

It's the best fertility based action romp since Junior.

More:  Action  Drama  Sci-fi  Disaster
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