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Children Of Men 2-DVD Special Edition

01/09/2009. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Children Of Men in the USA - or Buy Children Of Men in the UK

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DVD Region 2: pub: Universal Pictures B000NJM27M. 105 minute film with extras. Price: 2.50 (UK) if you know where to look. cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Peter Mullan, Michael Caine and Pam Ferris.

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'Children Of Men' is very definitely not the film of the book by P.D. James, though it has the same title and some of the characters have the same names. Here, Theo Faron is not a sedate Oxford Don but a former political activist, protester and disillusioned drunk now working in a London office. Julian is his old girl-friend instead of a girl he's just met.

The Fishes, five hopeless romantics in the book, are a large, serious and ruthless group of revolutionaries. Theo's old teacher, Jasper, is not a quaint academic but a spliff-smoking old hippy and former protest marcher. That's how they met. Michael Caine plays Jasper and his exuberant performance is one of the highlights of the film. In fact, all the acting is good.

The background is similar to the book but not the same. No children have been born for many years and the world is in chaos. In the book, England is winding down in an orderly but slightly sad way, overseen by a dictator who is Theo's cousin. In the film, England is ruled by a brutal fascist regime with policemen on every corner. The film does not have the Omegas, the last generation of children who are spoilt, beautiful and cruel but there is much evidence of urban decay and everybody looks miserable. You can tell this is English SF.

Theo is contacted by his old girl-friend Julian and dragged into a conspiracy to smuggle an illegal immigrant out of the country. He soon discovers that she is a very special lady in a world where no baby has been born for nineteen years and that others wish to exploit her. He ends up on the run with her and the mid-wife, desperate to avoid both the fascist government forces and the ruthless revolutionaries.

The film seems designed to annoy those who have read the book and confuse those who haven't. It doesn't give much in the way of background explanation and seems to go in more for striking visuals, such as cages full of illegal immigrants at railway stations and the pitched battle with the army at the end. According to Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher and cultural critic who imparts his wisdom on the extras disc, the background is the most important part of the film and meant to show 'the ideological despair of late capitalism.'

So it's an arty film. It's much more violent than the book, with one hundred per cent more swearing and the whole atmosphere of it is different. The prevailing tone in the novel was a sort of genteel, polite, sadness - very old-fashioned and English really, like the author. In the film most of the characters are so aggressive it's like an episode of 'Eastenders' and there is not one likeable person in the whole thing.

A film is not a book and obviously has to be faster moving and more visual. 'Children Of Men' is quite striking with many scenes of gritty urban life and a convincing portrayal of brutality. The end credits disclose that there were quite a few scriptwriters, not usually a good thing. Just after watching it, I was a bit disappointed but reflecting a few days later I decided it wasn't too bad. My advice for potential viewers is: Don't read the book. It sets up expectations that will not be fulfilled. Take the film direct on its own merits.

It's not terrible by any means and for three pounds is a cheap way to pass a couple of hours but the source material could have made a much better film. No, I'll amend that, a much different film. The studio has taken P.D. James basic concept and ran with it in a very different direction largely to prove, with extreme examples, that fascism is beastly. It has a similar message to 'V For Vendetta'. Alan Moore's original text was written in the Thatcher era, when these threats loomed large for some. This film was made in 2006 but I guess the message is worth repeating, especially with the BNP doing so well.

Eamonn Murphy

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