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09/26/2006 - CHILDREN OF MEN


CHILDREN OF MEN isn't coming to your local theatre until this December 25th, but I recommend you see this thought-provoking thriller as soon as it does - it'll be worth the wait.

Based on the novel by P.D. James, CHILDREN OF MEN is set in a dystopian near-future where mankind has been mysteriously stricken with infertility. This has caused social chaos on an unimaginable scale, with England as the only country still standing, run by a military dictatorship that spies on its people and puts illegal immigrants (or seemingly anyone non-English) into detention camps for "security" reasons. To the amazement of everyone, a young girl named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) becomes pregnant for the first time in nearly twenty years. Since she is an illegal immigrant, however, the government wants to kill her for fear her pregnancy will cause an uprising amongst the illegals, while the rebels fighting the government want to kidnap her so they can use her in a PR blitz to provoke just such an uprising. It's up to disillusioned government functionary Theo (Clive Owen) to smuggle Kee out of England to a place where neither government nor rebels can get their hands on her: a scientific community in the Azores called the Human Project that will care for both Kee and her baby as well as study them in an attempt to find a cure to the rampant infertility that threatens to end civilization.

In many ways, this is a companion piece to last spring's V FOR VENDETTA, down to the neo-fascist future Britain. But as good as that film was, CHILDREN OF MEN, directed and written by the shockingly talented Alfonso Cuaron (HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN), is better. It has a fresher, more ingenious, and more frighteningly realistic premise in suggesting that terrorists or war won't ultimately kill us, but after years of mistreatment, our own bodies will. It has better (and more) action as Theo has to literally smuggle Kee through a full-scale battle between government and rebel forces, a scene of urban conflict so terrifying and intense it rivals anything seen in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or BLACK HAWK DOWN. It has better performances, not only from the always-reliable Owen, whose burned-out bureaucrat learns to care again after helping Kee, but also an amazingly good one from Michael Caine, whose perpetually stoned pot grower with a wicked sense of humor comes to Theo's aid when he needs it the most. It has a better script, with more thrills, suspense, pace and twists, including the completely unexpected death of a major character that sends you reeling.

Best of all, CHILDREN OF MEN has a less simplistic, and thus more realistic, view of life than V FOR VENDETTA, which divided people into two mutually exclusive categories: the good rebels and the bad government. However, in CHILDREN OF MEN, both rebel and government forces are equally corrupted by war, so much so that it's difficult to tell who's good and who's bad the longer their conflict goes on. The only constant seems to be the slaughter of those like Theo who are caught in the middle - the innocent civilian.

As in every movie, there are some false notes. Though Cuaron's imagery is strikingly gritty, he can get a bit too obvious with it (the ship that saves a major character is called "Tomorrow"), while there is some muddiness in the set-up as well (Why has Britain survived this infertility plague relatively intact while more powerful countries like America have collapsed into total anarchy?)

Nevertheless, if you liked V FOR VENDETTA, you'll love CHILDREN OF MEN. I'm only sorry you'll have to wait until December to see it.

Responses, comments and general two-cents worth can be E-mailed to gillis662000@yahoo.com.

(Note: For all those who missed my past reviews, they're now archived on Hollywoodlitsales.com. Just click the link on the main page and it'll take you to the Inner Sanctum. Love them or Hate them at your leisure!)

A graduate of USC's School of Cinema-Television, Tom McCurrie has worked as a development executive, story analyst, screenwriter and teacher of screenwriting. He lives in Los Angeles and is finishing up (finally!) his first novel.


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