AndyO review: * * * *
Metacritic score: 84/100 (Universal Acclaim)
The best Science Fiction holds up a mirror to the present -- and also allows us to look through the mirror into one possible future. This future tends to be either hopeful (Star Trek, ET: The Extraterrestrial), dystopian (1984, Minority Report, Brazil), or somewhere in between (Blade Runner, Star Wars). "Children of Men" also falls somewhere in between.
In "Children of Men," the human race has become sterile--and as a result the world has gone mad. The movie begins with the death of the world's youngest person Baby Diego, who is a celebrity on the order of Britney Spears. We see that his death affects the world the way that Princess Di's death did.
Theo Faron (Clive Owen), who lives in London, watches the news of his death a TV in a restaurant. He leaves, and then a bomb goes off (a regular occurrence we learn). He still goes to work, but then tells his boss he's too depressed to be there.
Then Owen gets pulled into a plot much bigger than him--bigger than anyone, really--when his activist ex-wife Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore) has people kidnap him. She asks him to help transport a woman to safety. She doesn't tell him why--only than they need his government connections to get the papers. Owen does it--for the money they offer him. From there, the story goes in directions that are truly surprising--and I won't spoil any more.
The director of this movie Alfonso Cuaron, shows once again that he is one of the best directors today (he directed the best Harry Potter movie to date, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"). He uses film technique to drive the story, raise tension, and underscore thematic points--not just for effect. For example, his use of long takes without cuts builds tension subconsciously. His hand-held camera becomes a character, getting dirty and splattered with blood. While I've seen both of these techniques used before--the former in "Saving Private Ryan" and the latter in "The Untouchables," it's that Cuaron knows when to use them.
Cuaron also gets great performances from all his actors, including Owen, Moore, and Michael Caine. Another reviewer pointed out that Caine's character was perhaps what John Lennon would have been like if he'd survived to his sixties or later. (Caine is one of my favorite actors, and I can honestly say I've never seen him play a part like this.)
I was surprised at the feelings that "Children of Men" brought up. I realized that a world without children would be a world not worth living in. I could see how people without hope would go mad--how some would want to commit suicide (the government offers a suicide pill). Children give us hope that the future will be a better place.