Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Children of Men is a haunting and sweeping apocalyptic view into a world where humanity cannot birth any more children. The sheer visceral impact of this dystopian concept, comes vividly to life with the careful and skilled eye of director Alfonso Cuaron. The world that he conceptualized is frighteningly real and the grit of it gets into every fabric of the production. I wish all science fiction stories were this hardened and ingrained in their own reality, and the ones that are, really stand out as classics of the genre. This film follows in the footsteps of the great sci-fi films like Blade Runner, 1984, and Alien. They present a fictional tale of futuristic wonder and bring it down to a relatable and humanized story, building on the characters experiences to solidify its validity.
The hazy filled world of Children of Men.
The film starts out with our main character Theo Faron, played by the impeccable Clive Owen, as he grabs his morning coffee only to be rudely interrupted by a terrorist attack on his local coffee shop. The society of Children of Men is a place of constant panic and the citizens are persistently reminded of their immortality in the form of never being able to bare children. The news stations run rampant with coverage of the youngest man in the world's death, driving home the desperate notion that this may be indeed the end of humanity. It's a depressing world and the locales chosen for this film are exquisite in their loneliness and depravity.
Clive Owen remembers the old days, just
before being pelted by rocks. Damn trouble makers.
The characters of this film are remarkable though and bring about a different hue of this oppressive world. Michael Cane plays Clive Owen's friend by the name of Jasper, who is sort of an elderly hippy who lives in the middle of nowhere, far from the smoggy air of the city. His character brings a jovial sense to all of the despair and he delves a great deal into giving us a small peak into the back story that made Clive Owen's character so brooding and melancholy. Michael Caine is amazing in everything that he's in so it comes to no surprise that he does an excellent job with the character of Jasper, giving him a heart and soul.
Michael Caine thinks this movie is A Ok.
The blatantly destructive look of this film is constant, never bringing you out of the film, and never letting up as we delve deeper into the claustrophobic confines of this oppressive and over controlling world. The police presence is everywhere and the idea that our main character could be taken away at any moment by these rabid enforcers is quite real and extremely daunting to the viewer. We are given so much imagery with each scene, that we really get a great sense of how this world functions and the inhabitants that struggle to survive within its unforgiving walls. Graffiti is plastered throughout the city, shedding light on an organization called the Human Project, that as the film goes on, we find is a group of scientist trying to find the cure for the sterile population and some how repopulate the earth. There are sinister tones to this organizations motives and there are also saintly murmurs of a chance of salvation through their actions, but the ambiguity of this group is never defined only touched upon lightly.
The Human Project sounds like a kick-ass band. Not.
The world spins quickly out of control and delves into more exhaustive confusion, when Theo is abducted by a strange organization that has affiliations with the Human Project movement. They snatch him from off the street, covering his head with a black sack as they force him into a van. The group then takes him to a surreal interrogation room, where he is questioned by a mysterious woman who happens to be an old friend and lover. Julianne Moore is the leader of this rag tag group who seems to have some secret of great importance that they want Theo to help them with. I normally can't stand Julianne Moore, but she plays an interesting character in this film that has a certain intriguing quality that didn't annoy me for the duration of her screen time. The outcome of her character is quite surprising and it comes right out of left field, giving another great example of how dangerous this world truly is.
Clive Owen takes a friendly trip to Guantanamo.
One of the unorthodox techniques that Alfonso Cuaron uses in this film that really hits marks of brilliance, is his use of long drawn out takes that incapsulates all that is going on in the intricately planned action scene. This use of direction is fresh and is truly breathtaking, making you feel like your right there in the moment with these characters. There's so much emotional pull created by this technique, that it's hard not to be swept up in the flow of the narrative as you experience what they experience. The first scene where this is really shown to its fullest is during the car ambush scene, where our characters are attacked by a band of outlaws who fire upon the car and block the road with flaming barrels. It's a tremendous scene and one that creates an impact that is felt throughout the entire film.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, proceeds to crap his
pants in one of the best scenes of the film.
Children of Men is without a doubt an amazing movie, and if you want to go into this film with a fairly fresh mind, I'm going to ask that you not read any more and go see it with virgin eyes. Now that's done with, lets get on to the meat and potatoes of this film.
In this film, we are given a world starved for new life in that the very idea that someone could indeed be fertile be almost legend. The set up by Cuaron to make us believe this world and all the functionality of it, is stupendous and when we find out the secret that the Human Project has been hiding from Theo, we are blown away. It seems that a pregnant woman named Kee, played by the unknown Clare-Hope Ashitey, has been found, and they are planning to transport her to the Human Project off of the shores of England and into safety. The set up for this reveal is great and quite messiah like as the scared mother stands naked in a modernized nativity scene, surrounded by farm animals in a rusty barn. The impact of this moment, brings the true nature of Theo's character to the surface and it propels him on a quest to see this woman and her unborn child to safety.
Someone put the coins on Clive Owen's eyes,
cause he sure don't believe what he is seeing.
This is where things get really confusing and out of control, because we find out that not everyone within the group has the pregnant woman's best interests at heart. These impetuous thugs see the opportunity of having the only pregnant woman in the world and see great enterprising in this venture. Theo sees this volatile situation and opts to help Kee and her baby by performing a miraculous morning escape that really gets the blood pumping with its intense moments and split second decisions. The most memorable moment of the escape is the long cut of the car slowly coasting down the driveway of the farmhouse as a dreadlocked thug runs along side the car pointing his pistol into the car. It's an explosive scene with an intimate edge that is unlike anything I've ever seen before.
Start the car! It's an albino Predator with a gun!
Alfonso Cuaron gives us some amazing imagery to look at in this film. Most of it is almost poetic in its approach to convey the overall feeling of the scene. The sense of this lost world without children and all the hope that lies with Kee and her baby is brought front and center from just a single shot of Kee swinging on an empty playground, with Theo worriedly looking off into the distance. The composition of this frame is beautiful and the location on which it's set in is perfect for the ideals that the film preaches in its overall attempt to make us believe in this world. It works and it speaks wonders for what Cuaron can accomplish with just a well planned out series of images. He definitely guides this film with a steady camera and expert eye.
Clive Owen longs for someone to invite him to the playground.
Intensity is the name of the game with this film as we're presented with one outrageous situation after another, each showing the brutality that exists in this world. Throughout the film, we lose parts of our group, some by the steely cold hands of death and others through more nefarious means. Kee's midwife is taken away by soldiers to a prison camp in an intense scene of loss and anguish as we aren't sure if our main characters will get out of this situation. It's a hard film and Alfonso never pulls his punches as he berates us with more devastating imagery and heartbreaking moments. This all leads up to an intense birthing scene that really brings a definitive moment to all that they had been struggling for.
Ok, you want me to do what?
Like with the car ambush scene, we are presented with another astonishing long take of a war torn battlefield as Theo desperately tries to find a newly kidnapped Kee and her baby. This sequence is literally breathtaking as we follow behind Theo through hell itself, with gunfire blasting and there's even a tank blowing things sky high. It's a wonder to witness and greatly appreciated for its portrayal of one of the most intense scenes that I've ever witnessed on screen. The technique of shadowing all these crazy events, never has a dull moment and you'll find yourself holding your breath as Theo makes some narrowing escapes and daring attempts to regain the hopes of mankind.
This is what happens when worlds collide.
The beauty of the closing scene of this film, is the ambiguity of it all, never giving us too much information on what the conclusion of all of their efforts are and letting us rely on hope. It's probably not the most popular way to end a film like this, but I feel it's the best way to go. It still retains the integrity of the piece without cheapening it with a happy hollywood ending or leaving it on a down note with no one surviving and humanity being cast into extinction. The ending is a perfect balance to a great film, filled with meaning and heart.
Clive Owen finds out the hard way that rowing sucks.
Children of Men is an intriguing and ambitious film that tackles some hard asked questions about humanity and sheds some light on how we as a species would react as we approach our own extinction. The novel that this film is based on is very different from Alfonso Cuaron's version, but I think what the director brought to his adaption works and I think he makes a compelling story borrowing bits and pieces from the novel and manipulating it into an intense tale of moral boundaries and human spirit. There really is nothing like this film and the credit for that feat goes to Alfonso. He infused so much of his directing style into this film, that he truly makes it his own and the film in its entirety is better for it.
Children of Men is highly recommended for those of you who enjoy your science fiction films with a much needed layer of human speculation and gritty realism that presents new and unique ways of producing set pieces that literally boggle the mind and let our imaginations run away with this thought provoking narrative. The world that Alfonso has created is as brutal as it is breathtaking and must be seen to fully appreciate its wonder.
5 out of 5 A Science Fiction Film in a League of Its Own.