Children of Men review by Tom Blain
Children of Men takes place in London, year 2027. Terrorism and crime is at an all time high around the world but Britain seems to be one of the few (if not only) countries that is still safe. Or at least thats what the TVs propaganda would tell you. Civilized or not, it has turned into a fascist state where fences hold back thousands of screaming immigrants who arent allowed to cross the boarder. Busloads of immigrants are routinely taken into concentration camps. Terrorists (or freedom fighters depending on you point of view) have turned just about every other big city into Detroit. Amid these conditions, or perhaps preceding them, the human race has experienced 18 straight years of infertility. A group called the Human Project has been established to try to solve the infertility problem, but after 18 year...nada. The last born baby, Baby Diego, is a media celebrity whose death opens the film. His life gave people hope and in his death everybody mourned.
Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is a former activist who leads a farely normal life as white-collar working class in London. One day after the Baby Diego death, he is kidnapped by a group of terrorists that call themselves the Fishes and includes his former activist flame Julian (Julianne Moore). Their goal is to enlist his help in one of their missionsa mission that he finds out involves a woman named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who is eight months pregnant. While he sees her pregnancy as the hope for humanity and something that must be protected by the best doctors in the Human Project, others view her as a tool for revolutionary causes. The two become intertwined as they attempt to escape crazed militants while at the same time not get caught in the middle of a violent revolution.
Like any great sci-fi film there is an air of mystery surrounding the main themes. Nobody really knows what caused the infertility in man-kind. It could be any list of things from a polluted environment, to wrath of God towards a society of facism and sin. Conversely, questions are raised over why this woman could finally conceive. Is she some sort of savior? In most science fiction films there is some sort of conflict between technology and nature/faith, or technology and man. In Children of Men, its more like a George Orwell book where despair, as reinforced by the facist state, overshadows faith and humanity. (Speaking of Orwell, I dug the floating pig outside of the factory when Theo met his cousin Nigel; good reference to Pink Floyds Animals which in itself references Orwells Animal Farm.)And like all the good sci-fi films, answers to all confusing questions are never given but merely alluded to in order to increase speculation and generate water cooler conversation.
Alfonso Cuaron who directed Y Tu Mama Tambien, directed this Sci-Fi masterpiece with astounding technical mastery. In scenes of action, many directors will use multiple cuts to patch up holes and create typical cinematic illusion (ie Kuleshov Effect). By contrast, Cuarons camera fearlessly takes on action sequences for minutes at a time, never cutting but moving forward, swiveling, swaying, and capturing the world around its characters. It moves like a fluid through the cracks of the mise-en-scene creating a full, rich environment and realistic film experience. Instead of creating the illusion of action, Cuaron chroregraphs real action and merely uses his camera flawlessly to digest it. As a film viewer, it was just as entertaining to watch the scenes and marvel at the immense, complex choreography as it was to follow the story.
The cast is great with Michael Caine playing the most entertaining side character. He plays Jasper, Theos old light-hearted hippy buddy who lives hidden in an English forest. Ive always enjoyed Clive Owen and Julianne Moore; they arent award-worthy they certainly work well within their roles. Cuaron's long takes definitely require the actors to be "on their toes" moreso than most other movies.
I cant recommend this movie enough. I usually draft my Best of lists late as I dont get around to seeing all of the movies until about half way through the next year. If I had to make that list now, Children of Men would be #1 with no questions asked. Its the best science fiction film since the Matrix and for my money is better than the Matrix. Alfonso Cuaron should have won enough awards to line two shelves for the outstanding camera work and storytelling. Children of Men is now available on DVD.
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