What if the youngest person on Earth was 18 years, 4 months, 20 days, 16 hours and 8 minutes old?

Andrew Gaug

Alfonso Cuar¢n’s vision of unorthodox apocalypse is a fresh cinematic adventure

Credit: Ron Soltys

If trends in film are any indication, the future is going to be very bleak.

Movies such as Mad Max, The Fifth Element and Fahrenheit 451 all depict the distant future as dark times when government is drunk with power and it’s up to the people to take it back – usually through heroes in dark clothing performing awe-inspiring action sequences.

Children of Men is that type of picture — but more personal.

The film, directed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’s Alfonso Cuar¢n, adapts the novel of the same name by capturing not only the dark atmosphere of a future dystopian society, but goes a step further by offering a more personal view of a person trying to survive in an area stricken with violence.

Lead by Sin City and Inside Man’s Clive Owen, Children of Men follows former activist and current bureaucrat Theo Faron (Owen) as he roams through England in 2027. He discovers that no child has been born in 18 years, riots constantly occur and non-English citizens are placed in cages akin to concentration camps.

The early months of the year seem to serve as a dumping ground for bad movies that had no place competing against summer blockbusters and fall’s Oscar-contenders, so it may seem like a good movie is hard to find.

But for people looking to see more independent, limited released films, now is the time.

Movies such as Children of Men aren’t playing in Kent, so audiences will have to look a little farther. Like other critically praised, modest-budget films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Queen, it is currently in an expanded, limited release.

Seemingly an experiment by the film industry to gauge reaction to a left-of-center movie, the $72 million dollar Children of Men has gained popularity, but currently the closest location to see the film is the AMC Plaza Cinemas in Chapel Hill and Regal Interstate Park Cinema in Akron.

Those not willing to make the drive can hope for it to get high enough box office numbers to play at the local Kent Plaza Theater, or can wait until its release on DVD later this year.

—ÿAndrew Gaug

Throughout all this, Faron remains indifferent to the violence and terror — he’s just a man who wants to get out of the city before he is killed as well.

The first half of the film hits its high point when Faron visits pot-smoking compadre Jasper, played with hilarious comic timing from Michael Caine, as he tries to escape from England. But the sequence drags when it dwells on politics during scenes with Faron’s cousin as well as his ex-wife, played by Julianne Moore.

All is forgiven later, as the third act is one of the strongest in any recent film. When Faron overhears the revolutionaries who are providing him protection plan to kill him after he finds they are housing the first pregnant girl in 18 years, he takes her, makes a run for it and spends the rest of the film trying to keep her safe.

Filmed by Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the camera constantly plays eagle-eye right behind Faron, so when things occur such as Faron’s car being attacked by rebels, the audience is stuck in the middle as well. It creates a thrilling and claustrophobic feeling that keeps viewers, who may have been bored by the politics and slow pace of the first half, on the edge of their seats for the second.

The unconventional style of Children of Men is what sets it apart from other futuristic movies. It relies on subtleties rather than flashy ideas of what the future will look like. People drive ordinary, beat-up cars rather than flying hovercraft, there’s no real villain Faron is looking to fight and, therefore, there are no big fight scenes.

Clive Owen’s performance as Faron builds on his previously understated performances in past films. He plays the hero-by-default perfectly by never seeming to be emotionally attached to anything besides Jasper and keeping dialogue to a minimum. Equally excellent is the supporting cast —ÿ ranging from bad guy Serenity’s Chiwetel Ejiofor to newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey who is equally effective as Kee, the pregnant girl looking for safety, as she uses facial expressions rather than dialogue to express her fear and sadness.

While it contains political undertones, Children of Men doesn’t stumble over itself trying to make a statement about today’s government. Rather, it throws in subtle parallels to today’s society that act as more of a cautionary tale rather than another film’s attempt at disguising a movie as another politically-charged drama.

With action films of the past year trying to up-the-ante with action sequences and how much can blow up within an hour-and-a half, this serves as a refresher for what action films should be — thrilling action sequences anchored by a realistic script and performances.

While it isn’t perfect, it brings to mind the reason why people go to the movie theater for action films — to be thrown in the middle of the action and kept on the edge of their seats.

Contact assistant ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].