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No, James Brown is not in this movie. That still is from Beat the Devil, one of those BMW-sponsored short films starring Clive Owen, who is in this movie. I just couldn't find any stills from Children of Men that were as captive as this one. :P (Oh hey! Beat the Devil is no longer available for download or purchase from BMW, but it's on YouTube! I blabbed a bit more about it in my More Fantasticness! post.)
Children of Men (which again has nothing whatsoever to do with James Brown) was excellent. It was easily my favorite movie of 2006. Now, if you go watch the trailer, you'll probably think, "Hmm, so in the near future, women can no longer have babies, society crumbles without hope of future generations, and Clive Owen tries to save the day. That sounds like a pretty hackneyed sci-fi plot." Well, that's what I thought, at least. I didn't even really want to go see it that badly.
It turns out that this is one of the most intellectually and emotionally engrossing movies I've seen. The director, Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Happy Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Great Expectations, A Little Princess (talk about range!)), somehow makes the actual plot only a small piece of the movie. This is a film that's all about texture. It's as much about what happens around the main characters than what happens to them.
His England of the near future manages to represent two things at once: It's a cautionary tale of where our First World societies might head if we're not careful, but, just as I think, "At least things aren't actually this bad," I realize that they are that bad right now, in Iraq, in Somalia, in dozens of Third World countries around the world.
Most importantly, and this is why I loved the film, nothing in the movie ever feels like "science fiction". Everything feels absolutely real. This is in large part due to a few amazing set pieces where the main characters are darting in and out of trouble as action happens around them for minutes and minutes and minutes without a single cut. We're all used to the modern way of filming action scenes, where no shot lasts more than a second and a half. Yet, somehow, the action can be far more tense when the camera just keeps on rolling, and we feel like we're really there, that this is all really happening, and that nothing is being staged. (This effect couldn't show through in the rapid-cut trailer, unfortunately.)
You might notice that I've given few details. It's not so much that I'm worried about spoilers. I'm really not, since the actual plot is mostly predictable. It's because the typical details people give in reviews are irrelevant here. This movie is very much about the experience of watching it, and I'm just going to recommend that you do that.
I mean, the performances by Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and especially Michael Caine are quite good, as is newcomer Clair-Hope Ashitey, but I've seen good acting before. What I haven't seen is a movie that takes all the conflict in the world today and so effective show me:
This is what could happen. This is what is happening. It's a miracle we're still around. And we should be damn appreciative of that. Watch this movie, and for those two hours, you'll be there.