Combustible Celluloid
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With: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Pam Ferris, Danny Huston, Peter Mullan, Oana Pellea, Paul Sharma, Jacek Koman
Written by: Alfonso Cuar—n, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, based on a novel by P.D. James
Directed by: Alfonso Cuar—n
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity
Running Time: 109
Date: 09/03/2006

Children of Men (2006)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Parent Gap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it looks like a brutally depressing and fairly ordinary cautionary tale, Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men actually turns out to be one of the year's most invigorating and adept pieces of filmmaking.

Set in the year 2027 in London, the film unfurls in a world without children. An unexplained wave of infertility has settled upon the human race, and the world's youngest person, age 18, has just been killed in a mob scene. The world is now a bleak place, littered with garbage; cages filled with illegal immigrants stand on various street corners. A burned-out bureaucrat, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) tries to make the best of his bleary life, getting his only joy from visiting Jasper Palmer (Michael Caine), an aging revolutionary living in a secret cabin in the woods. Suddenly Theo's former flame Julian (Julianne Moore), a distant memory from his days as an activist, re-appears to ask him for a favor. This favor involves a journey, transporting invaluable cargo and avoiding several duplicitous warring factions along the way.

Director Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) starts by not explaining any of this; we don't know how the infertility was caused or who is doing the fighting and why. He's more concerned with the specific moment. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, having just completed work on Terrence Malick's masterpiece The New World, shoots in natural light, giving the movie a bright, almost garish look, and uses many, many long takes to emphasize the reality of any given moment. One scene could have been a typical car chase, but Cuarón's method of shooting turns it into a true white-knuckle experience, complete with terrible consequences. The complete lack of exposition may leave viewers thinking they haven't understood the entire film, but that's what makes it great.

There are many smaller pleasures to be had here, such as Danny Huston as an art collector/art thief and the many objects stashed in his flat. Based on a novel by British crime specialist P.D. James, the film is written by Alfonso Cuarón and Timothy J. Sexton, though three other writers (from earlier, discarded drafts) are also credited.

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