Children of Men (2006)

by | Mar 31, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Children of Men (2006)

Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton, and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Studio: Universal
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen for 16:9
Audio: English, Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: The Possibility of Hope; Under Attack; Comments by Slavoj Zizek; Deleted Scenes; Theo & Julian; Futuristic Design
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: *****

It seems like the major marketing ploy for “Children of Men” has been to call it the next coming of “Bladerunner,” or something close to that. In most ways that is a disservice to both movies. As much as “Bladerunner” is a classic sci-fi movie (in truth, it’s one of my favorites), when you think about it, you don’t say, “Wow! Those characters are so real and the acting is so poignant!” Let’s face it; Ridley Scott’s fortes are spectacle, setting, and attention to detail. Scott created a well-used world rich in detail. Characterization, acting, and even plot seem for the most part like necessary evils to get you from the beginning of the movie to the end of the movie.

Alfonso Cuarón is a different kind of filmmaker—character, acting, and a tightly drawn plot are very important to him. Before “Children of Men,” Cuarón was known for 2001’s “Y tu mamá también,” a coming of age story set in Mexico, which revolved around those very same qualities. Despite the sci-fi setting, “Children of Men” is filled with richly-drawn characters, no-holds-barred acting, and razor-sharp plotting. To that mix, add direction that is as precise as anything to come out in years and intricately choreographed action sequences that are breathtakingly accomplished. Cuarón favors long unedited continuous shots that don’t seem possible, considering the action and the practical effects (stunt work, explosions and mechanical effects) that are happening throughout the scene. What “Children of Men” does share with “Bladerunner” is that both films feature a believable and fully realized world. But that’s where the similarities end.

“Children of Men” is set in the near future (2027) and is based on a novel by P.D. James. Society is breaking down because women have become infertile and can’t have any babies. As a point of interest, P.D. James’ novel had it the opposite way, that men were no longer fertile. Interesting because James is a woman and Cuarón is a man. You can draw your own conclusions from that. Anyway, the last child was born in the year 2009 and humanity is faced with the very real and finite end of its own existence. This inspires numerous sorts of crises among nations, faiths, ideologies, and peoples. The England of this future is one without infrastructure—garbage is strewn everywhere and the buildings are worn out. People have given up hope, so taking care of the present to protect the future no longer makes sense. The cities are dilapidated and the people reflect and embody this state of ill repair. In making this movie, Cuarón intended for viewers, “not to see the future, but to recognize the present.” Viewers will find this a chilling recognition, indeed.

Clive Owen is Theo, an alcoholic cubicle worker of the future who has lost his ideals and his ambitions. “Children of Men” becomes his own quest for redemption, as he is enlisted, against his will at first, to escort a miraculously pregnant young woman out of England. Theo’s ex-wife Julian, played by Julianne Moore, chooses him because she knows that once he is onboard with the task, he will never give up. What follows is a journey through the heart of despairing darkness in what is left of England and civilization. Theo is the clumsy, ill-prepared hero in flip-flops throughout the film, rising to meet the needs of the moment as they present themselves. In this future, the needs are challenging and Theo is faced with the horrors of what the world has become.

Also included in the DVD are well-done featurettes that offer intelligent views of the future envisioned by P.D. James and Alfonso Cuarón by well-known sociologists, futurists, and cultural critics like Slavoj Zizek, and a few concise and illuminating making-of documentaries of the film. “Children of Men” is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking—certainly one of the best films of 2006. Highly recommended.

– Hermon Joyner

 

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