by SUZANNE SCHREINER & r & & r & 49 Up & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & ne day in 1964, a group of 7-year-olds visits the London zoo. They gesture excitedly at a polar bear mugging for them in hopes of tidbits. The 14 children have been gathered from upper-crust public schools, London's East End, Liverpool and the Yorkshire Dales for Seven Up!, Granada Television's critical look at the British class system -- and 22-year-old researcher Michael Apted is tackling his first job after Cambridge. Though the show wasn't planned as a series, Apted has been back every seven years to film those same children, who are now 49.
At the film's heart is the old Jesuit dictum, "Give me a child until he is 7, and I will give you the man." Tony, a fractious, irrepressible East End urchin bursts through a doorway, trips, does a face-plant, bounds up again and pelts down the alley. His heart is set on being a jockey; by 14 he's working in a racing stable. He leaves school at 15, has a brief, unsuccessful shot at racing. By 21 he's driving a taxi. At 49, Tony is with his family at their vacation home in Spain and still full of plans -- a sports bar, a play about his life -- still barreling along.
But no life's arc is sure and predictable. Neil from Liverpool is as bright and shiny as a new penny at 7. "I want to be an astronaut," he says, "but if I can't be an astronaut, then I want to be a coach-driver." At 14, he's still articulate, but his expression is clouded and anxious. At 28, he's roaming the Scottish countryside, homeless. He fears he may be going mad. Yet in his 40s, redemption -- Neil somehow has made his way into local politics, a wish from his 20s that had seemed absurdly unattainable.
Like time-lapse photography, the film mesmerizes as fully formed adults take shape from the germ of their 7-year-old selves. Unlike the scripted nonsense of today's "reality TV," Apted chooses humanity. As one character says, "Every life is an act of courage, and everybody has a story."
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.