Clive Owen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Theo Faron in Children of Men.
We first meet Theo at the beginning of the film as he is merely watching the news of the youngest person in the world dying while he is getting coffee. We see him adding alcohol to his coffee outside before the coffee shop he was just in explodes from a bomb, either from terrorists or the government it is never told. From there on he is are average man who we are to follow through the world that the film creates. Theo seems simple enough and Owen is great in establishing his character's rather bored way through life. There isn't anything passionate as he maneuvers through the day and even after narrowly avoiding being blown up there is not much happiness in having survived that. Other than portraying the fear of the immediate moment of the attack Owen is very effective in establishing as this as a more ordinary occurrence than it should be in this world because of his nonchalance towards it afterwards. The most notable thing about Theo early on is Theo's exasperation with it all.
The most notable thing about Theo is more of who he knows than who he is actually is. First with his off-beat hippie friend Jasper (Michael Caine) as swell his estranged wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who is a the leader of a terrorist group opposed to the government. In his scenes with Jasper Owen is quite good in just exuding a bit of joy showing that his time with his friend is probably the only good time he really has in life. On the other hand it is a particularly disconcerting thing when he goes off to a meeting with his wife as she has thugs abduct him using a van and bag over his head bringing him to a hidden location. Although he is seeing his wife for the first time in some time their relationship is not delved into too much in terms of Owen's performance. Instead Owen rather properly expresses just the surprise and disbelief at the manner in which she is meeting her. Also there really is not a great deal of time for anything else as she technically only met him to have him procure papers for a woman who needs to get out of England.
Theo is able to procure the papers through his well to do cousin and accepts the mission apparently due to the money he is being offered for it. This does not appear to be the only reason as Theo contacts Julian again for the mission. Owen's is terrific as he alludes to a more active Theo of one time as he expresses affections to his wife, carefully as though not to make it too obvious yet suggests the history the two one shared. Owen seamlessly switches to his usual sardonic callousness though after she rebuffs his semi-attempt at rekindling due to memories of their dead son who died in a flu epidemic. Suddenly though as they begin to try to transfer the woman Julian is suddenly killed in an attack. Owen is truly outstanding in the scene as Julian is laid to rest as he first keeps his usual uncaring reserve. After he walks away from the rest of the group though Owen is absolutely heartbreaking as he so naturally loses that reserve to reveal the overpowering grief that Theo actually feels over his wife's death.
Soon after this point Theo finds out that the woman in fact is pregnant and takes it upon himself to get her to safety after he finds out that it was his wife's own terrorist group that killed her. Owen only continues to be exceptional in portraying Theo's reactions to this apparent miracle. When he sees that she's pregnant Owen is flawless in expressing the wonderment of seeing the impossible one again, and gives so much weight to what it means within the film's world. Owen's performance technically becomes even more reserved technically speaking since Theo has to continue right through trying to help the woman find safety while avoiding being killed by either the terrorists or the government forces. Owen does not necessarily have even a lot of lines, which is interesting because I would not describe Theo as a stoic individual, but that never matters as Owen's performance stays consistently compelling throughout the film.
The second half of the film there continues to be great moments for Owen's performance and it is astonishing to note how simple in terms of what Owen needs to do yet how powerfully he does it. One such scene that is fantastic is as Theo overhears Jasper tell the story of how he met Julian. Owen does not say a thing yet his expression conveys the heart beak and the emotional loss as Theo merely is given the moment to reflect on the past. An equally poignant moment comes when Theo must witness yet another of the people he loves being killed. Owen reaction charges the scene with such an intense emotional power as this time he is forced to once again grieve while being charged with anger for the act as he seems to hold in all in well wishing to scream out his pain. Also the pivotal moment of the birth is brilliant played by Owen. All the nervousness, unease, and even humor as he tries to talk her through it, then when the baby comes Owen once again shows the wonderment of the moment.
This an interesting challenge against Clive Owen since everything about Theo as a character is technically just accepted and even his character arc never stops to next the stop. The film never needs scenes specifically to develop Theo's character though because of Clive Owen's work. He flawlessly creates the character through the lines, and shows him grow as a hero without needing to have an obvious scene to make this change. Owen's work here is one of the moment, and that's all that he needs to be. The way he makes every scene have a greater impact through the simplest aspect of his performance. Even the way he moves around in the action set pieces is notable, yet never distracting, as he just again adds to this visceral punch. Owen is never overshadowed by the vision of the world he only amplifies it with his performance that shows an actor does not necessarily need the normal associated elements of a great performance to give a great performance. Well Owen gives a great performance, and I'd say one of the very best of its sort.