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Children of Men (DVD)

Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor (the Alliance agent in Serenity)

Rated: 15

Story: It is the year 2027 and there are no children. Everyone has been infertile for years, the youngest person on Earth is eighteen and the world has descended into despair and chaos. Britain has a totalitarian government which uses immigrants as scapegoats, locking them in cages and then carting them off to ghettos ready for deportation.

Theo Faron (Owen), an apathetic bureaucrat, finds himself caught up with a group of rebels and is persuaded into helping them transport a young female refugee named Kee to freedom. The plan quickly unravels and Theo is forced to become a hapless action-hero in order to keep Kee safe and protect the hope for humanity which she may represent.

Comments: I expected this to be fairly slow and depressing so I was happily surprised by the tension and action. By action I don't mean Bond-style fisticuffs perilously perched on the arm of an enormous crane, I mean trying to jumpstart a car on a muddy hillside to escape a mob of New Age misfits, but it's no less thrilling. It's also easier to empathise with Faron than with Bond. This is the kind of messed up getaway I could attempt. I'm pretty sure I'd remember my shoes, though...

I've had a soft spot for Clive Owen ever since he starred in the live-action cutscenes in Privateer 2. This is odd because he was a bit rubbish in that and the ongoing rise of his career over the years has been something of a mystery. He does well enough here, though, as does Moore during her brief appearance. Michael Caine is Michael Caine as always, just with manky hair this time. There is a slight feeling, however, that the entire cast was the second choice somehow. Only Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee seems spot on. The film itself is often the star - several lengthy scenes are shot without cuts which gives a gritty immediacy to proceedings.

The script attempts to cover difficult subjects such as immigration, faith, despair and loss but the questions asked are often vague and we are left to draw conclusions for ourselves. The plot is similarly hazy, with little explanation of the broader picture and setting. Even the ending requires the viewer to fill in the blanks. All that remains are a couple of assertions: a) Immigrants can offer solutions not problems. b) Children belong to us all and without them there is no future.

There's nothing wrong with this approach but if you like loose ends wrapped up then you're going to be frustrated. Science Fiction tends to start with a well-drawn world which is sometimes almost incidentally populated by characters. Children of Men is about one muddled bloke searching for hope in a world very like our own but blighted by a couple of convenient plot devices. Again, there's nothing wrong with this but just be warned that the movie is more Gattaca than Minority Report. Expect to put in some effort.

Conclusion: Memorable and almost brilliant. Great for shoving in the face of anyone who reckons children are a lifestyle choice or grumbles about having to pay taxes to subsidise the health and welfare of other people's kids. The wealth of a society is in its children.

Explosions: Some
Bleakness: High
Inappropriate Footwear: Plenty

Rating: 4/5

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