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Children of Men

A movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron

< read all 10 reviews

A complete disaster

  • Jun 13, 2007
Pros: Film is great at creating a grimy mood

Cons: The story is created of plotholes--it is the afterbirth of a better film

The Bottom Line: It sucks whatever nasty thing you want to think of and it still isn't even bad enough to be a cult film.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Ordinarily I stay away from reviewing something that has more than 20 reviews unless I see something that to me was important but left out. To be fair to the other writers, I tend to put plot spoilers in my analysis (while warning of it) where they find good ways to avoid doing it. For me, how a story is told is far more important than what happens (there are rare movies for which this is not true, but for me it is less than 1%).

Children of Men is a disaster because it is ultimately impossible to understand.

In 2027 the world has fallen completely apart and the part of the world we see is the bottom portion of England. Fertility rates have dropped to nil and the species seems on the brink of extinction. Theo Falon (Clive Owen) becomes a reluctant hero of the story. He is kidnapped by his former wife (or something) Julian (Julianne Moore) for the purpose of getting transit papers for a woman. Falon pursues this and is able to obtain the necessary documentation. The woman is called Kee (Claire-Hope Ash*tey—d*amn what an unfortunately surname, and I had to spell it like this because Epinions wouldn't accept it as it is really spelled--interesting metaphor if you want to go digging I guess) and she is pregnant. Falon and Kee make their way towards the coast with the help of several people: a super-hippy called Jasper (played brilliantly by Michael Caine) and a midwife (Pam Ferris), not to forget an “immigration cop” (Peter Mullan). The filler that makes the film flesh out to over a hundred minutes is tripe-infested political rhetoric. Any further plot information would give this away, so . . . on to the analysis.

Generic spoiler warning, but truly if something is already spoiled, can you really make it worse?

Many reviewers pointed to foul language, particularly f**k and its variants. I have to say that it didn’t make an impression on me. Movies about a Dystopia are going to be covered up in foul language anyway for the most part, gangster movies too—so add the two together and I think you get what Children of Men contains. I’m not saying it should have that much profanity, but given how bad the movie is as a whole, this is like nitpicking the length of the gash on the Titanic.

Most reviewers also pointed to the heavy handed political stuff. Not only is it a problem of just being boring, it is also hard to follow and inconsistent if you do bother to wrestle through the crap. Fortress Britain is deporting all illegal aliens back home. The purpose for this is never explained. And this is really a rather large problem with the narrative because this is happening in Britain. In my review of “V for Vendetta” I say that the film would only make sense in Britain. This is due almost exclusively to 1984 and its themes. Americans always believe that no matter how close to a dictatorship we may come, our typical way of life will prevail because of an inherent understanding of the rule of law. Since Britain has no written constitution and has gone through times where civil liberties were limited in ways that has not generally been true in the US they are rightly more wary of it happening.

The British government is going after illegal immigrants, but apart from that, Britain doesn’t appear to be in a true police state. So long as you are a British citizen, your movements don’t seem to be anymore monitored than they are today (and they are monitored at a point that even the most suspicious American would blanch at). But there is anecdotal evidence that Britain and maybe a few other countries are fighting a war against Islamists; no one comes out and says this, you just have to piece it together from tatters given in different places. Even so, England does not appear to be in a police state like happened in V for Vendetta and 1984.

The terrorist group is called the Fishes. Why the Fishes ‘love’ illegal immigrants is not explained. I can assume that since Britain has claimed the world has fallen apart (something untrue that I will cover in a moment) perhaps the Fishes just don’t want people of any kind being sent to places that are uninhabitable or something similar. I just think that love is an odd word for it. I believe, but again the film does not say this, that the Fishes support or love or whatever the illegals because they would be part of what they call “The Uprising.” I have to think that the uprising referred to is like the race war that Charles Manson concocted. I mean, once the illegals help, what would the British leaders of the uprising propose to do with them? This is just a messy little detail that comes to mind. Still unclear motives for the kind of activities of the Fishes make you ask why and with no answer, you have to conclude this is crap story telling.

I didn’t read all of the existing essays (27 when I published this), but I read a sampling and I didn’t find something mentioned that really confused me to no end. There are two parts of the film where mobs come out of seemingly nowhere to create havoc. The first is when Falon is on a train. Between stations, there is a group of angry people screaming (just screaming in a form of unexplained rage, not saying anything at all akin to language) and throwing things at the train windows. The second time this happens is when Falon, Julian, Kee, and the others are driving to the safe house. The thugs or whatever come out of the woods, again screaming nonsense. They throw a Molotov cocktail at the car, smash a window, shoot through the windshield killing Julian.

Who are these people? It’s like the set for Children of Men was right next to a zombie movie set and the extras for the zombie movie kept coming over to the other set when they were on a break. This is why I say that Britain isn’t a police state; if it were, then there would be some sort of motivation to find and jail these thugs. Maybe, since the rest of the hemisphere is in collapse, there is no more footie, so the Football Hooligans have just become screaming and thing throwing things randomly since they can no longer do the same to the opposition. In the absence of anything that makes sense, it can mean anything you want it to.

Now I get to the whole fertility thing. First, the movie begins with the murder of the world’s youngest person, an Argentinean called Baby Diego despite now being over 18 years old. The southwestern quadrisphere can’t be too bad off if the planet is willing to allow the youngest person to live there (but he is famous only for being the youngest “known” person). One reviewer said that the emotion involved in Diego’s death was similar to Diana’s (and I completely agree); other than that it serves no real purpose. It doesn’t further the plot and it is dropped even as a matter of discussion just 10 minutes later. This is indicative of most of the crap that happens in the movie—little is needed to further the scant plot so what plot pieces used are like a condom—toss it away when you’re done.

Kee is a sort of Eve. She is carrying a baby, apparently to term. Fine. The problem is that there is this mysterious group called “The Human Project.” According to rumor, they are on ships that dock at the Azores. If people know where they are, then it can’t be all that secret. Also, why would there be a human project at all if infertility were universal except for Kee? This strains all credibility. Further, if the youngest woman was just over 18, there had to be a rather small number of women could even get pregnant given that so much of the world is at war and just the fact that no known child had been born since 2009. For the Human Project to be believable, there have to be other women who are in a similar situation. If their goal is to make sure the species continues, they would use the women as breeding farms and hope like hell that the children of these women would be fertile so they could similarly breed until a critical mass of population arose. Then after the world has aged to the point where the only war could be one with kids against the aged in walkers, the Human Project could take over.

But this is only speculation. It could be that the Human Project is only in the business of killing women and thus ensuring that the planet would be human free in less than a hundred years. Again, without a reason, any reason at all can be assigned.

One little note before I wrap it up. There is a product called Quietus which is a government approved suicide kit—welcome to irrelevance Dr. Kevorkian (d*mn, it is disturbing that Word 2007 has his name listed). The advertisement on the side of one of the double-decker buses says “pick your own time.” Why would a government of any kind, but especially a Western one, want people to commit suicide? Yes human existence may be ebbing to zero, but to have enough people to support a war effort if nothing else, they would need people to stay alive for as long as it took—if they wanted to use it specifically for those who could offer no help, then there would be a reason (however repugnant). As it stands, the use of Quietus makes no sense—also, if this is a commercial product, it is the worst one possible: no repeat customers.

Apart from the ending, which is more of a stopping, my biggest problem with the film is that it was poorly derivative of other, better films: The Handmaid’s Tale where fertile women were essentially enslaved so that better families could be given a baby, V for Vendetta where a terrorist takes on a British government run amok, 1984 a culture of spies and a British Government on a constant war footing with an enemy that is everchanging. Each of these films had a tight story and did a fantastic job of telling it.

Children of Men is an issue movie that doesn’t know what to do with the issues. Rather than explore the reason for the infertility, it is left a mystery. So instead of exploring something (anything even, pollution, radiation, an ovary killing virus, literally anything at all) it turns into a stupid caper movie without the humor of most caper films.

As kismet would demand, I happened to have my copy of the film of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I’m also a little disturbed that Word 2007 has this in its dictionary too) next to my Netflix envelope for Children of Men. Each movie was directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Azkaban is, so far, my favorite of all the HP films. It is meant as much for adults if not more for adults than children. The imagery in it is complex and very economical; the book wanders as books will, but the film captures so clearly the motives and meanings in the pages even as it is unable (due to length) to include all parts of the story. I’m surprised that my HP DVD didn’t eat the Children of Men DVD so that there would be no evidence, at least in my house, that the crappy movie existed.


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More Children of Men reviews
review by . December 02, 2009
Apparently I love Alfonso Cuaron, who directed both this and Y Tu Mama Tambien (as well as the third Harry Potter film). And, in many ways, I like both films for similar reasons: they work on the superficial genre level as well as on deeper intellectual and symbolic levels. Children of Men is an effective science fiction action movie as well as a stellar vision of dystopia, while also serving as religious metaphor, warning of fascism, and the old adage to beware becoming your enemy in order to defeat …
review by . May 04, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
At first, this film seemed to be a sci-fi film noire in the mold of Blade Runner. It portrays a dystopian society in which women lack fertility. Indeed, unlike a lot of sci-fi films nowadays, "Children of Men" does not shy away from making dystopia realistic and grisly. Key characters are killed suddenly, the color palate is mainly grey, and all of the key characters have traits that make them less than admirable. In one chilling scene, an important character is last shown being taken away by troops …
review by . March 06, 2009
I put this DVD in my home theater with surround-sound and must admit that the last 20 minutes of this movie, I literally felt transported into the screen. The effects are that good as well as frightening. The scene called "ceasefire" was gut-wrenchingly poignant. Now to the movie. It was pretty good though not as great as the critics seemed to say. The plot was a little difficult to understand. It appears that Britain in this wacky future world is the only "intact" country remaining after world-wide …
review by . November 17, 2008
Y2K twenty seven   The world is a mess   How things got this bad   Is anyone's guess     Nations are divided   By fighting and hate   But Britain still stands,   A dystopian state     Women are infertile   No patter of feet   Policemen hunt refugees   Right in the street     Clive Owen is brilliant   Perfect for the role   Entangled …
review by . January 09, 2008
Children of Men is one of those rare apocalyptic movies that stimulates apprehension from the first frame. I can't say that watching it was an enjoyable or entertaining experience for me. It sets up a depressingly filthy, hopeless world that makes you want to drench yourself under a hot shower. Visually stunning, atmospherically bleak, teetering on the edge of terror, Children certainly makes its point with undeniable force and immediacy. It was only a day or so after seeing this film that I felt …
review by . June 13, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Amazing film, wonderful cast, gorgeously depicted from start to finish      Cons: Hopeful yet inconclusive ending, pacing, predictable moments      The Bottom Line: The bottom line is fit for hopscotch. "Children of Men" is an amazing achievement in today's typically shallow spread of films.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot. "As the sound of the playgrounds faded, …
review by . May 01, 2007
I wouldn't say this is the best movie I've ever seen, but its close. The enthusiasm of many of the reviews of this picture is entirely justified. Though it is unlikely to make anyone feel 'good', it will offer a thought provoking and chillingly plausible vision of a world sliding into despair. The pseudo-documentary camera work is slightly jarring at times, but lends further weight to the film's sense of being grounded in a realist tradition.    The most outstanding thing in …
review by . April 19, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
I put this DVD in my home theater with surround-sound and must admit that the last 20 minutes of this movie, I literally felt transported into the screen. The effects are that good as well as frightening. The scene called "ceasefire" was gut-wrenchingly poignant. Now to the movie. It was pretty good though not as great as the critics seemed to say. The plot was a little difficult to understand. It appears that Britain in this wacky future world is the only "intact" country remaining after world-wide …
review by . March 29, 2007
CHILDREN OF MEN is a masterpiece of cinematic artistry. Director Alfonso Cuarón, using a screenplay he co-wrote with Timothy J. Sexton, has done what few artists have been able to achieve before - create an apocalyptic experience that is almost devoid of extraneous material meant to terrify the audience and focused the worst of unthinkable events into a personal story about a few people. Oh, the global destruction and masses of dead humanity are not kept from our eyes, but instead Cuarón uses these …
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Presenting a bleak, harrowing, and yet ultimately hopeful vision of humankind's not-too-distant future,Children of Menis a riveting cautionary tale of potential things to come. Set in the crisis-ravaged future of 2027, and based on the atypical 1993 novel by British mystery writer P.D. James, the anxiety-inducing, action-packed story is set in a dystopian England where humanity has become infertile (the last baby was born in 2009), immigration is a crime, refugees (or "fugees") are caged like animals, and the world has been torn apart by nuclear fallout, rampant terrorism, and political rebellion. In this seemingly hopeless landscape of hardscrabble survival, a jaded bureaucrat named Theo (Clive Owen) is drawn into a desperate struggle to deliver Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the world's only pregnant woman, to a secret group called the Human Project that hopes to discover a cure for global infertility. As they carefully navigate between the battling forces of military police and a pro-immigration insurgency, Theo, Kee, and their secretive allies endure a death-defying ordeal of urban warfare, and director Alfonso Cuaron (with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) capture the action with you-are-there intensity. There's just enough humor to balance the film's darker content (much of it coming from Michael Caine, as Theo's aging hippie cohort), and althoughChildren of Menglosses over many of the specifics about its sociopolitical worst-case scenario ...
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Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Genre: Action, Adventure
DVD Release Date: May 26, 2009
Runtime: 109 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Universal Studios
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