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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.71%
Average: 6.2%
Pretty Bad: 10.08%
Total Crap: 7.75%

10 reviews, 69 user ratings

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Children of Men
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by Jay Seaver

"Interesting things happening in the dark."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: There's not necessarily a lot in Alfonso Cuarón's early filmography to indicate just how great he would be at large-scale science fiction and fantasy, but there's a strong argument to be made based upon his last three films that he's the best thing going in that corner of the movie business. Of those three, "Children of Men" best exemplifies why; it's a dark, detailed ride that always manages to pull viewers further in when it should be seemingly be pushing them away.

Why is that? I think it's because Cuarón does not fall for the trap of thinking that darkness, itself, makes a work sophisticated. Instead, it's something that gives a storyteller opportunities, and because he is willing to have the worst happen at seemingly random times or use P.D. James's novel to build a world that may be unfair but is meticulously constructed, Children of Men always has interesting new paths to follow, and some of them can run counter top what the viewer might expect. Indeed, seeing this movie for the first time in a few years, I was actually surprised at just how bleak it was; the rare uplifting moments shine so brightly in my memory that I forgot just what sort of awful things happened immediately afterward. The tenor of the movie makes both powerful, and that's because Cuarón has made sure that the audience believes anything can go wrong, but hasn't made it predictable.

Granted, most of the time this predictability manifests itself as disaster occurring in a way that hurts more than the audience has any way to expect, with the pain coming because he, his co-writers, cast, and presumably James have infused every character with a battered but beating heart. Take Julianne Moore as the outlaw activist who recruits her ex-husband into helping out her cause; there's a way to portray this character so that she's harsh and running on little but anger and inertia, and Moore certainly gives us a fine version of that old standby, but it's the moment when it's clear that she not only still loves Theo, but still likes him and has plenty of humanity to show that solidifies why she can be so central. Michael Caine supplies comic relief and wisdom the way his character supplies cannabis, and his sincere belief that there are still things that make life worth living and love for those around him makes things much sadder than if he were simply deluding himself. The way they and certain others come off forces the cynicism of other characters into sharper relief, which really helps Clare-Hope Ashitey solidify Keep so that the young woman pregnant with the first baby to be born in seventeen years can be more than a plot device.

Then, at the center of it all, there's Clive Owen, who can seem dour and weary almost by default, and make great use of it here. Beaten down by the world even before whatever happened happened, the look on his face is a constant barometer of just how little hope there is in the world. He has brief moments of coming back to life, and more of extra sorrow, and without having to explain himself very much, his Theo sells himself to us as the hero of the piece based on his hidden trustworthiness as much as any specific skill.

They all ply their trade in one of the most authentic-seeming dark future put on film. Cuarón and his team present a London (and a rest of England) that had trudged on, with incremental improvements to technology but no real innovation, and everything increasingly run down as a dwindling and apathetic population lets it fall apart. And having built that background up, Cuarón makes sure that what plays out in front of it is just as impressive, from philosophical moments on how best to spend the final years of a world that is ending via attrition rather than sudden disaster to action that is as engrossing as it is genuinely horrifying. It's an unusually well-balanced movie, a pessimistic (bit reasonably-extrapolated) portrait of life on the edge of extinction with an exciting-enough plot to get the audience to every corner the storytellers want to examine without changing the atmosphere.

"Children of Men" is engrossing, a great science fiction movie, and it's a shame that it took Cuarón six years to get "Gravity" made afterward. Certainly, excellence takes time and part of what makes these movies great is the lack of corners cut, but it's hard not to wasn't more when someone I'd this consistently good.

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originally posted: 03/03/14 03:22:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/24/14 dr.lao I'm just glad I wasn't depressed when I watched it 5 stars
5/26/14 Richard Brandt Cuaron's nervously roaming camera lends credence to this bleak, bleak world 4 stars
11/19/12 Sean Harrison A great beginning and a great ending, terrible otherwise. 2 stars
10/02/10 bored mom This rips off American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, except it won't give you a brain hemorrhage. 3 stars
6/17/09 Bonny Javo An interesting idea about the future reduced to a pretentious and plodding chase venue. 2 stars
4/25/09 TheGoc Dark but spectaular story of our near possible future if we continue in the wrong direction 5 stars
4/03/09 Pete Snot A technical marvel bereft of any intelligence, useful plot or characters you'd care about. 1 stars
4/03/09 Gorgon Zola A movie that makes it a point to be pointless. A partonizing script and no ending. Awful. 1 stars
1/11/09 Sully I still find it tough to understand what those crazy Brits are saying! 4 stars
11/19/08 David Newell Filmview Magazine says that this has the "stupidest title in motion picture history" 1 stars
10/08/08 Shaun Wallner I did'nt get it. Very Confusing. 2 stars
9/21/08 mr.mike It was....fair. 3 stars
4/21/08 Vineet Doshi Not exactly superb, but a good movie nonethelss. 4 stars
3/22/08 Matt awesome movie, eerily realistic, 1& 2 star raters-you guys are fuckin retarted 5 stars
1/28/08 R.W.Welch Done with great expertise, tho premise is hard to buy. 4 stars
11/01/07 Wake up, people! This is really, sad.. My first serious movie and liek omg it's liek so 'heavy' and 'deep'. i'm smart now, kthxbye 2 stars
10/24/07 Clarence Anyone who gives this film less than five stars is obviously braindead. 5 stars
10/24/07 William Goss A viscerally impressive rendering of an all-too-feasible future. 5 stars
9/13/07 I-K Visually and stylistically gob-smacking, woven through with references subtle and overt. 5 stars
8/28/07 kris A great film, obviously too smart for many here. 5 stars
8/22/07 Double M Technicaly great but flat characters, uninvolving, not THAT deep; didn't make me care. 3 stars
7/08/07 Tom Servo Finally a serious and deep sci-fi film-people with short attention spans beware 5 stars
7/07/07 K. Sear Meandered aimlessly and gave no incentive to care about the outcome. 1 stars
6/27/07 rw this movie blew. not worth the money to rent it. too many unanswered questions. 1 stars
5/30/07 Piz As you can see you'll either love it or hate it. Engaging movie with a flat ending. 4 stars
5/28/07 mb Dark 4 stars
5/26/07 Dan Pointless and confused. 1 stars
5/14/07 Elisa This film sucked 1 stars
5/07/07 Indrid Cold Yet another film enormously influenced by the cinematography of Saving Private Ryan. 4 stars
5/07/07 Tracey Chambers great movie, enuff said 5 stars
5/06/07 Todd Don't let the name fool you, this movie kicks ass. 5 stars
5/06/07 AJ Muller SciFi yes, but the dramatic weight is what gives this movie its power. Astounding. 5 stars
4/29/07 Geraldine Riveting, indeed. I loved this movie. 5 stars
4/23/07 matthew Uninvolving, terrible performances but good cinematography. Not as good as it thinks it is 3 stars
4/17/07 Stevo UK Its not us and our machines that are damaging the planet, its God-awful films like these. 1 stars
4/17/07 Jefenator Best I've seen in years. Pushes the envellope and doesn't mush out like most thrillers do. 5 stars
4/03/07 Monday Morning Better for humans to disappear, the way we're screwing up the planet. 2 stars
3/29/07 Luke My fave of 06 and well on it's way into my personal top movies of all time "pull my finger" 5 stars
3/28/07 action movie fan potetniaaly good, but way too avant garde-often confusing 3 stars
3/21/07 James Dunn Bleak, yes, but ultimately uplifting speculative fiction. Loved it! 5 stars
2/18/07 dmitry Good for the first hour before devolving into ridiculous schmaltz 2 stars
2/15/07 Bruce H An astounding, amazing, thinking persons movie, with a frighteningly real sequence 5 stars
2/09/07 mckrob definitely worth seeing !! 5 stars
2/05/07 Bert Kaplan lots of violence, great if you love blood and guts; a few interesting ideas 2 stars
1/26/07 kris Bitchflaps: what pretentious or derivative about it? Flap your bitch less. 5 stars
1/22/07 drtednelson the action sequences were almost good enough to make me forget that this movie had no "why" 3 stars
1/20/07 Dan F Background was the new of the world we live in - everyman/woman solidly placed at the core 5 stars
1/18/07 jcjs always nice to see Clive...excellent message which will happen if we don't straighten up... 5 stars
1/17/07 daveyt thought ending should've been darker, excellent film anyway. Will watch again for subplot 5 stars
1/15/07 Ben(jo) de Cinema An accomplishment of craft in every aspect. The ambiguity of its end is necessary to theme 4 stars
1/14/07 Tanya Excellent, full of action makes you think about the future 5 stars
1/14/07 Simon Beautifullly, stunningly, gorgeously directed. Sometimes hollow, but still impressive x10. 5 stars
1/13/07 Bitchflaps Horrendously pretentious, derivative and overlong, I almost walked out. 1 stars
1/11/07 biskitboy Masterful execution of a C-grade script. Half-baked. 4 stars
1/10/07 shaun lawton Nothing silly about it. Gripping, realistic, funny, tragic. Best futurist movie I've seen 5 stars
1/10/07 kris A marvel, should be seen in a good cinema. Saw it 3 times. 5 stars
1/09/07 del You're all just repeating one another because someone told you to. Sheep. 3 stars
1/09/07 Gerhard Maier Amazing movie that proves the genius of Cuaron. Watch it on a big screen 5 stars
1/08/07 Jill A really great story just doesn't end like that, Cuaron didn't have the guts to see it thru 3 stars
1/08/07 Todd Wallace Visionary, excellent film. Masterpiece. Politically relevant to today's war crimes. 5 stars
1/08/07 Zee Ryder See it. Then read the book and see it again. Science is dead, what's left? 5 stars
1/07/07 Christine Loved it. But cried a lot. Disgusted by the similarities to the US(what we're doing now) 5 stars
1/07/07 Jeffrey Fantastic, thought provoking and at times touching 5 stars
1/07/07 Dark Enchantress Great movie, very interesting and i could not look away 5 stars
1/07/07 Geoff Best action sequences I have ever seen in film, the theater I was in gave standing ovation 5 stars
1/06/07 Jeramie Clark Good call on the second viewing, every frame provides more depth to the story..AMAZING 5 stars
12/28/06 Tony Jovevski Magnificent, bravura film making. Best sci-fi in two decades. A privelege to sit and watc 5 stars
12/27/06 Ole Man Bourbon Pretty silly plotline, but an involving, active movie. 4 stars
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  25-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 27-Mar-2007



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