See the bottom of the review for the update!
We're going to try a new feature here: movie reviews by The Jack Sack. Since I've been holed up at CTU for these past four hours, I figure the least I can do is put some extra content on the blog. What better place to start than to offer a movie review of a current release. This week's review is of Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian thriller CHILDREN OF MEN.
PLOT: Set in the not-too-distant future (2027 A.D.) the story follows the depressed and bleak existence of humanity in a world where there are no longer any children. That's right, humans have failed to reproduce for nearly 20 years because of some unexplained species-wide female infertility. So, what happens to humanity when it faces a long, drawn-out extinction? Lots of bad things!
The film's protagonist is a British paper pusher named Theo (Clive Owen) who drinks his coffee black, to match his dreadful demeanor. He quickly gets mixed up with a militant underground movement called the Fishes, who seek to change the British government's harsh immigration policies. The leader of the Fishes, Julian, also happens to be Theo's ex-wife, a smartly dressed revolutionary played by Julianne Moore. Julian seeks Theo's help in transporting Kee, a young West African refugee (or "foogie"), to the coast, where she can be taken away from "not so" Great Britain. Theo, through financial coercion, agrees to help.
What follows is a series of violent and unpredictable scenes that immerse the viewer in the journey to deliver Kee to freedom. Oh, and for the kicker: Kee, happens to be pregnant. What's at stake is quite simply the "key" to solving the single most important problem in humanity's history. If Kee can be delivered to an ambiguously described consortium of biologists and scientists known as The Human Project, then maybe there's hope for the rest of us.
THOUGHTS: This movie surprised me. I was worried that such a politically charged movie as this would be preachy and ponderous. Instead, the movie takes great pains to not take any sides politically. No one side is correct. And in CHILDREN OF MEN politics is a part of the context, not the movie's theme. The movie's themes, about hope, human decency and fear, are dealt with intelligently. And as I mentioned above, the movie is indeed a "thriller."
In fact, Cuarón has made one of the most exciting movies I've seen in quite a while. The camera never leaves "eye-level" and you're always involved in what's taking place on screen. And one of the coolest technical tricks Cuarón pulls off are some elaborate action scenes that are captured with ongoing shots that take place for several minutes on end. One doesn't notice them without looking (someone tipped me off to it before I saw the movie) but they help to make the movie completely mesmerizing.
The acting in this movie was excellent overall. Clive Owen, an actor that has never impressed me greatly in the past, was flawless in his performance as a haggard, middle-aged man living amongst a world of hopelessness. Owen is unimposing and very subtle in revealing his emotions, and he serves as the eyes and ears for the viewer, showing us a world that is horrific but not unimaginable. Julianne Moore was less prominent, but she got the job done. Michael Caine shows up as Theo's aged hippie pal, Jasper, and he makes the most of his supporting role. And the rest of the cast all manage to bring their roles to life in this extremely involving movie.
CONCLUSION: If you were looking for anything negative in this review, guess what? I've nothing bad to say about this movie! CHILDREN OF MEN is a downer, but its a worthwhile, smart and gripping downer if there ever was one. I recommend the film to anyone above the age of 14, as while the violence is not gory, it is quite graphic and unflinching... well, nothing less than what I have to deal with on a typical day with my pal, Jack Bauer.
SCORE: (out of a possible five sacks)
[UPDATE] I wanted to add a new section to this review called: WHAT WOULD JACK HAVE DONE? In CHILDREN OF MEN, Jack Bauer would have done things a bit differently. First, he would have carried a gun. Theo had no weapon throughout the entire movie-- and no shoes through most of it either. While Jack doesn't need shoes or a gun, he's a professional and he would manage to have these items to further maximize his kill potential. Second, Jack would have figured out the species-wide female infertility was Nina Myers' fault. Her ice-cold ovaries condition was weaponized as an airborne agent that had a pandemic effect on all women by 2027. With that mystery solved, Jack would have put humanity back on track-- and in less than 24 hours! That being said, Theo was crafty, and Bauer appreciates that approach. Oddly, they would have agreed on a lot of the same strategy throughout the film, except Jack would have added a few more throat-punches. COPY THAT!