Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reprint: Children of Men

In the year 2027...

Women are barren. And have been for 18 years.

OK, it's not exactly Terminator plot-wise. But while this isn't a sexy premise, it's a reasonable one for a movie about dystopia. Besides no new children being born, the world is trying to get into England because of a world-wide famine. (And...England is where the food is? Meh, the movie is English, so let's just roll with it.)

At the helm is Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and on-screen, primarily, is the ultra-cool Clive Owen (Sin City) being a little more “every man” here, as the guy who's tagged by terrorists/rebels/insurgents to transport a woman to The Human Project. (Something about dystopia movies requires that they mention a refuge for the protagonist to escape to, I guess.) The woman, of course, is pregnant.

From this springs a chase movie, action punctuated only by periodic (unnecessary) exposition and peppered throughout with revolution music. Said music is a little out of place, actually, since virtually everyone in 2027 is an asshole (pardon my French), including Owen's ex-wife, Julianne Moore, who gets him into this mess in the first place.

Moore's smart enough, though, to know that Owen is trustworthy, and to predict many of the various betrayals that would occur on the way. Michael Caine has a small, but important role as a pot-growing hippy pal of Owen's who provides him with the means to escape.

This is a pretty good film. Not particularly original—I can't for the life of me figure out what's supposed to be so all-fired cretaive about the premise, which was used most recently on film in The Handmaid's Tale. It's not particularly tight as far as its construction of the dystopia: What's valuable when the youngest person on earth is 18 years old? Well, youth, of course. Yet the children of England are frequently shown as indigent. Please. Not only would the demand for food be steadily falling (most likely negating any possibility of famine), the demand for labor would be steadily increasing.

But perhaps I nitpick.

It's just that when a movie is praised for its detail, intelligence, and ranks in the top 250 on IMDB, I have to call out the obvious. It's a fine movie, with some excellent sequences, but it ain't well thought out. Or, then again, maybe it is, seeing as it's based on a novel, and the director just expects everyone to overlook the glaring questions. Since they did, maybe I should just shut up.

One employee at the theater where I saw this said people were freaking out about this movie, with one person saying they had “no right” to show this film, and another asking “When did this happen?” (If you miss the first five minutes, you could easily not see that it took place in t he future.) All in all, though, I found it a well-executed, well-acted, but otherwise pretty routine dystopic flick. Smarter than The Island (but what isn't?) but not as smart as...oh, hell, there must be some reasonably well thought out dystopic film...maybe Minority Report? Eh, the movies aren't really the right place to look for intelligent science-fiction.

But it's a good film. And it's not boring.

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