Alfonso Cuaron is a genius. If anyone still has doubts after seeing his latest, and possibly greatest work, Children of Men, they need to get their brains checked. Everything about this movie screams genius. It's not perfect, but it is still impressive in every way; without a doubt, one of the best films of 2006.
The year is 2027, and women are infertile. Cuaron takes this simple premise and transforms it into a thought-provoking dystopian sci-fi adventure. We are thrust directly into this bleak future with the announcement of the killing of the youngest man in the world. Shortly thereafter, a building explodes, one in which the protagonist, Theo Faron, has just bought coffee. One minute, a bustling store, the next, rubble. Within ten minutes Cuaron has effectively grabbed hold of the audience, a hold that will remain there throughout this expertly paced film.
Theo is basically directly in the center of a conflict that has been ripping apart the societal fabric of this futuristic world, a conflict between a group of freedom fighters and the government. A Everything is very strictly regulated, but Theo soon discovers something that will change the fabric of the society. A woman named Kee is pregnant, a woman whom Theo must safely transport to a safe haven known as the human project, where scientists can possibly use the miraculous birth to figure out why women are infertile, and maybe even find a cure.
Cuaron is not interested in the miracle of why this woman is pregnant. He is not interested in exactly how the world came to be such a horrible place because women are infertile. He is more interested in, as many critics have put it, presenting this story as a cautionary tale. There is some very deep and powerful societal commentary in Children of Men. This is not a film about how much the world has changed. One of the things that makes it so frightening as that the kind of oppression seen in Children of Men is exactly like what we have seen before, even if it was less concentrated. Rounding up old people, fugees, homosexuals, and all that, putting them into cages, is reminiscent of World War II. Freak bombings like the one seen at the beginning of the film remind us exactly of bombings in Europe, or even the US. It's tangible, and because it's tangible, the prospect of living in such a future is not entirely out there.
Another great thing about this movie is how brilliantly paced it is. There isn't a second of wasted space. It's an hour and forty-nine minutes long. It's not some huge sci-fi three hour long epic, but it IS epic. The tension remains constant throughout everything. Everyone who has seen the previews or heard anything about the movie knows that there is a pregnant woman in it, so a failed build-up would have destroyed a lot of the tension. Cuaron gives us the perfect build-up though, and the momentous revealing of the pregnant belly feels just as world-changing as it should. Everything about that scene conveys how mind-boggling it truly is. Clive Owen's acting is brilliant as he stares, open-mouthed, at Kee's belly. It is one of the greatest moments of the movie.
Besides the pacing, the muted quality of everything conveys how tragic this world is. This isn't some great futuristic world. This is a horrible dystopia of a place that no one, no one would want to live in. There is no moment, as there are often are in similar films about the future, of "Oh, wow, wouldn't that be cool!" Anything like that would have done nothing but a detriment to the film. You keep on thinking, "Oh my gosh. I can't believe that just happened. That's horrible." There's no glorified action or stylized violence. It's all just real, and there, and the simplicity of everything makes it so much more in-your-face and powerful than it would have been otherwise.
There isn't much about this movie that I didn't like. I felt pained many times throughout the movie, and many times I was not enjoying myself at all, but when I look back at it, it only made the movie that much more great. This isn't exactly a movie that can be enjoyed in the traditional sense, but it's a wonderfully impressive technical achievement. The acting works throughout - the main actress who plays Kee, though, is obviously less talented than Clive Owen. Clive Owen's performance is brilliant in many ways, but it's nothing Oscar-Worthy. It could just be that I don't enjoy Michael Caine as an actor, but I found his part to be very grating, and if a better actor had been found it would have helped a little. The music of the film didn't really strike me as very important, but it does its job, and it was very moving.
Aside from the horrible advertising, though, this film is just simple genius. It's the kind of movie that is so well done that you don't even notice all the amazing directing and writing choices until after the movie is over, and even though you've probably just lived through some of the bleakest hour and forty minutes ever put on celluloid, you'll want to see it again. Don't believe the horrible advertising. This is a movie that deserves to succeed, so go see it. No way in hell should "Stomp the Yard" make more money than Children of Men. Anyone with a brain and an eye for quality can see that this is a great movie, possibly the best movie of the year. Like I said, everything about it screams genius. It's a painful, bleak reminder of what our world may come to, and a lot of people may not like. Sometimes, though, quality is not about what we want, but what we need to see.
Review by sullibrandon from the Internet Movie Database.