He said/She said: "Children of Men"
Eagle County correspondent
and SHAUNA FARNELL
Special to the Daily
“Children of Men” spends most of its running time following a haggard Clive Owen as he shepherds mankind’s only hope ” a pregnant woman ” through barren English countryside and war-torn settlements. During one of the film’s showstopping setpieces, the camera follows Clive Owen’s Theo, documentary-style, as he dodges and dives for cover in a massive firefight between a fascistic government and an equally twisted group of homegrown terrorists.
It’s one of the most realistic and harrowing war scenes ever set to film, and that a force other than weapons brings the battle to a silent halt remains one of the most haunting, vivid and touching moments in recent cinema.
You’ll have to see the movie for yourself to find out exactly what that anti-weapon is, though. And while you’ll be pummeled and browbeaten by the relentless despair that floods the movie’s dystopian setting, you’ll also be charged by our protagonist’s flair for getting out of tight scrapes and the ultimate hope for the future he fights for.
“Children of Men” may take place in a future time, but it reflects our own: It uses a sci-fi prop (namely, the idea that humans have stopped reproducing) to explore the looming fears we live with today. Terrorism, government control, immigration ” all these issues are touched upon (but never preached about) without forsaking the tight, burning-like-a-fuse plot.
Though other sci-fi filmmakers will likely copy the “Children of Men” template, a la “Blade Runner,” for years to come, Alfonso Cuaron has crafted much more than just a sci-fi movie.
“Children” has big ideas perfect for post-film conversations over dinner and drinks, and it’s a shame Oscar basically ignored the film in the big-ticket categories (though it did get nominations for cinematography, editing and adapted screenplay).
Owen, Michael Caine and newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey give sharp performances, and they deliver just enough black wit and humor to leaven the film’s otherwise oppressive mood.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and the production design team deserve special mention for creating an original take on a bleak, crumbling England, mostly without elaborate special effects.
Lubezki even invented a special rotating camera rig to film an entire action sequence from the inside of a car; as assailants on foot and motorcycles attack the vehicle, the camera pans uninterrupted between all the passengers for the entire scene, essentially trapping the viewer along with them in the cacophony and madness.
It’s gripping, unnerving and unlike anything I’ve ever seen on film before.
In fact, the majority of “Children of Men” isn’t quite like anything I’ve seen on screen. Isn’t that why we all go to movies in the first place?
Ted Alvarez can be reached at (970) 748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Somehow many films set in the future turn out to be eerily prophetic. Let’s hope this pattern doesn’t hold for “Children of Men.”
It’s 2027 and the human race is infertile. This sad reality unfolded in 2009, after all the world’s largest cities each met with certain destruction. Without the hope of new life to keep the species alive, 2027 London (the only densely populated city on the globe that has alluded a major terrorist attack) along with the rest of the world that has “survived,” is hell on earth. Schools are abandoned, covered in graffiti and full of broken glass. Garbage burns in bonfires along the sidewalks. Cows burn in charcoal heaps in pastures outside the city. Coffee shops are bombed at random and the cherished youngest human being alive, Baby Diego, age 18, is unceremoniously murdered in Buenos Aires. Grey-faced passers-by pile around the nearest circa 2027 flatscreens to absorb this dour news. As if there wasn’t enough to be hopeless about.
Subway stops are patrolled by armored guards with bazookas. Each city block is populated with cages full of sobbing illegal immigrants who have been tracked down and will be shipped off to “refugee” camps where they are tortured and murdered.
Yes, widespread homicide is the way of life in 2027.
Those who don’t care to indulge in this activity have the option of a neatly packaged suicide kit, advertised everywhere in informercials and on billboards. It’s not immediately clear what gets Theo Faron (Clive Owens), or anyone else out of bed every morning. He swigs a bottle of pocket whiskey throughout the day as he glances at the immigrant cages when getting on and off the subway and when sitting in his office doing some nondescript job.
Semblance of solace
At least he has one friend who provides some semblance of solace ” an old hippy (Michael Caine) with a catatonic wife who reached that state after sustaining the loss of her children and other major life traumas.
Jasper lives in the forest, hiding road access to his house with branches and bushes, wisely excluding himself from society. Jasper and Theo smoke weed and discuss life as if it wasn’t full of terror and hopelessness, but one understands that they’re simply alluding this glaring conversation piece.
What a fun movie, eh? If you think it sounds intense, dark and disturbing ” well, you’re right.
There is real cult appeal to this film. There’s no question that it’s well-made as far as acting and cinematography. Is it enjoyable to watch? No. Unless you enjoy watching someone get his fingers blown off, corpses lined up in warehouses, innocent people masked and executed and every other vile and violent form of people disrespecting life.
There is a small ray of hope that works its way into the plot. The characters set out to rescue said ray of hope and deliver it to a better place, although the film never gives us any convincing idea that such a thing exists anywhere.
Maybe it’s realistic that if the human race was in fact, on its way to becoming extinct and everyone knew it, people would be doing all kinds of nasty things to expedite the process.
If this frightening reality does one day come to fruition, hopefully it won’t be this nasty.
You might want to bring your own hip flask of whisky if you see this film.
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