Monday, January 15, 2007

Children of Men

I knew going into Children of Men that I wouldn't love it as much as its biggest fans, because futuristic, dystopian movies tend to leave me a little cold. For starters, though they're not technically sci-fi movies, they often share with that genre the creation of a hypothetical world that doesn't hold up well to scrutiny. Children of Men mostly gets around this problem by not getting into much specific detail -- it's essentially one long chase, with a few very well executed getaway scenes. Clive Owen is great, as he always is, and so is Michael Caine. Julianne Moore's role, mercifully, is very limited. (Spoiler immediately ahead: To put a blunt, impolite point on it, I've never been more relieved to have a character killed early on in a movie. With the knowledge that she wouldn't be on screen anymore, I felt freed up to enjoy the rest.)

In short, I think it's definitely worth seeing, even if my genre prejudices keep me from hailing it as one of the year's very best. But for an alternate take, I thought I'd turn things over to my dad, who makes me look like an unapologetic freak for all things sci-fi/dystopia. He wrote the following to me during an e-mail exchange about the movie last week:
I will give you points for the first street explosion but the rest of the fighting was boilerplate stuff and the car chases, in my opinion, are kid stuff compared to The French Connection, Bullitt, and any Bond flick. The escape from the farmhouse challenged my Hall-of-Fame suspension of disbelief when Clive (who I agree is great in anything) starts pushing the car uphill in mud. Critics are awed by the soldiers gaping at the squalling baby, but what would they expect? The first kid born in 18 years!! Why wouldn't they gape? And how about the gender issue? No one mentions the disappointment when the bad guy finds out it is a girl. He wanted A.P. Indy, but he got Ruffian instead. He should have been tracking down the father of the baby ... now there is a key guy, given the movie’s circumstances. Anyway, I think it’s weird -- the kind of flick where everyone feels like they need to find something profound rather than simply standing back for a minute and saying "this is really a bunch of crap." The photography was excellent in keeping with the dreary and hopeless state of the world. The one shot of the barren field with the sludge pouring out of the pipe was terrific, but to what end other than to further depress the viewer? Come to think of it, that is the point...

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