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Laramie Movie Scope:
Children of Men

One of the best films of 2006

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 6, 2007 -- “Children of Men” is one of the best films of 2006. Compelling, lyric, organic, passionate, it is cinematic storytelling at its soaring best. It is nearly perfect.

The film is set in a not-too-far-off dystopian future in which humanity is doomed due to a worldwide total reproductive failure. No children have been born in more than 18 years. The protagonist, Theodore Faron (played by Clive Owen of “Closer”) is a prisoner of his past, constantly reminded of his son, who died in an influenza epidemic. He works without enthusiasm at a pointless office job in England, the last outpost of civilization in a world which has descended into chaos. Suddenly, he is kidnapped by a rebel group headed by his ex-wife, Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore of “The Hours”) who want him to use his connections with a high government official to obtain travel documents.

Through a series of events, Faron discovers the mysterious person who needs the travel papers. It is a woman who is pregnant and is about to give birth to the world's first baby in over 18 years. The plan is to get the woman out of the country to something called “the human project” which will protect the woman and her baby, and whose scientists will attempt to solve the problem which threatens mankind with extinction. Many obstacles threaten the plan. The government and a rebel faction both want to kidnap the woman and her baby for their own purposes. Faron, who was once a rebel himself, is galvanized into action. He takes it upon himself to try to get the woman and her baby to safety.

It is a stirring tale of hope, courage and redemption. The cinematography, utilizing a lot of hand-held cameras, lends the film a lot of excitement and suspense. There are some combat scenes which are reminiscent of “Saving Private Ryan” in their intensity. The acting is superb and there are no dead spots in the story at all. It is as if the story just grew onto the film. A couple of minor quibbles, though. Some blood spatter gets on the camera lens in one scene. That took me out of the experience a bit and reminded me this is just a movie. The song at the end of the film also seemed out of place. For most of the movie, however, I found myself leaning forward in anticipation of what happens next. This is a great film. It rates an A.

Some have argued this is not science fiction. It definitely is science fiction. First of all, the story takes place in the future, not in the present or past. Second, it uses some technology, like high-tech computer monitors, that don't exist yet. Third, the story indicates that the problem with women being unable to have babies is due to natural causes, not supernatural causes, like magic. If the premise was based on the supernatural, then it would be a fantasy. The fact that the problem is natural makes it a scientific problem, hence science fiction, which is a specific sub-genre of fantasy. Fourth, the entire premise of the film is based on something that has not happened yet, a sudden, catastrophic, universal failure of the human reproductive system. This is unlikely in the extreme. Scientifically, the story is implausible. Humanity is far more likely to be wiped out by an asteroid or other space collision, a plague or a super volcano than such a sudden reproductive failure. The fact that it is implausible doesn't mean the viewer cannot simply suspend his disbelief and enjoy the film. I did.

I think the reason the director of this film and others are trying to claim this film is not science fiction is that science fiction enjoys less prestige as an art form than others. Science fiction is dismissed as being trivial and of lower quality than other varieties of fiction. Thus, the label is often avoided. For instance, George Orwell's classic story “1984” is clearly science fiction, but people argue it can't be because it is such a great, prophetic book. The same is argued for Aldous Huxley's “Brave New World.” Generally, the argument by some people is that if it is a masterpiece, it can't be science fiction. I think that is provincial, an attempt to lock science fiction away in the literary basement. Science fiction is like any other genre. It can be great and it can be awful, but in essence, it is still science fiction.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)