January 7, 2007

Movie Review: Children of Men

Seeing Children of Men is a transcendent experience. It is a film that thrusts you into a dangerous and brutal world, yet brings hope for the future. This vision of the future is bleak and grim, there is a distinct feeling of hopelessness. Director Alfonso Cuarón delivers a daring future world that takes you on a journey through the despair to the dawn of a new hope. Quite frankly, I loved this movie.

Before I go any further I need to mention some thoughts on the way the movie has been advertised. The trailers definitely got me excited about the movie, but after seeing the film, I cannot help but think of a missed opportunity for a big screen shocker. What was revealed in the advertising would have had a much bigger impact had we not known exactly what was coming. I am sure that it would have been inferred sooner or later by the audience, but still, I can only attempt to imagine what it would have been like to see that reveal for the first time along with Theo (Clive Owen). The thought of the experience sends shivers up my spine.

Some movies offer a good plot, others offer socio-political undercurrents, others deliver finely crafted characters, still others bring Judeo-Christian allegory to the table, Children of Men delivers all of those. This is a movie that offers a lot to digest, and I am sure, nay, I am positive that I did not pay close enough attention to digest all of it. I am, historically, a more "surface" viewer. On occasion I will dig a little deeper into the offerings and statements that a movie has to make, but more often I am looking for a good story first and the meanings behind it a distant second.

The story is set in the future, not too far removed from our own. In this future women have become infertile, no more babies are being conceived. The very idea of this happening is blood chilling. Think about it, with all of the weird things that go on in the world, from pollution to genetic experimentation to all of the crazy drugs and chemicals being added to our food and used to treat illnesses, who knows if some sort of other side effects are changing us without being detected.

This is the story of a world that has lost hope, everyone is literally watching the world die. Civilization is collapsing all over the world, we get flashes of other major cities around the globe, every one is falling into chaos. England has enacted a Homeland Security Act that is being used to expel all non-nationals. This movie shows how the immigration issue is being dealt with as everyone is being rounded up and sent to refugee camps to await deportation. This future is dark and violent and feels very, very real.

What helps bring this future vision alive is how little we are told. There are things that happen to imply things about the world and the various groups and people involved, but we are kept on the outside looking in, forcing us into being one with Theo as he moves forward. While being sucked into the world, we are forced into his perspective, not unlike watching the action through a dirty window, where many of the details are fuzzy around the edges, only allowing focus on the primary action.

We are introduced to Clive Owen's Theo just prior to a terrorist bombing of a coffee shop, which comes on the heels of a news report announcing the death, by murder, of the youngest person in world. A young man thrust into the spotlight and treated as a celebrity just because of his birthdate. Theo is a man who has has lost hope, he keeps himself going by drowning himself in his ever present bottle of scotch whiskey. That is, until he is abducted by a terrorist group and charged with getting a young woman to the coast, by his estranged wife Julian (Julianne Moore). The young woman is named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), and she potentially holds the key to the future of humanity in her miraculous pregnancy.

Initially, Theo is less than thrilled at the idea, and has no interest in playing along. Watching him as he goes through the journey, the emotional changes that he goes through is a sight to behold. The further the story goes the more gripping it becomes. I really cannot go into any more detail, there is so much here that needs to be experienced, it needs to be seen for the first time on the screen, not read in a review.

Children of Men will take you on a journey that will give you things to think about, but it will also dig deeper and get you on an emotional level. There is a rollercoaster at work here, it is an experience not soon forgotten. It is a bleak, dark tale that has a bright light at the end of the tunnel. A purposefully vague world where you have all the pieces, but not the original image to go by. You have to work to put some things together, yet other things will come easily and affect you deeply. An epic story told on a personal level, and a thing of beauty to behold.

Alfonso Cuarón has directed a daring film. The look of the film is fantastic, it has a drab, washed out color palette, it has a feeling of being genuine. There is a dynamic that has this film grounded in reality, it feels mere steps from our own. The camera work is fantastic, take, for example, a scene where Theo enters a building in the midst of a firefight, bullets are whizzing by and he is moving through the building, all the time followed by a camera in a single, unbroken shot. The script was co-written by Cuarón with Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby and based on the novel by P.D. James.

One last note, Clive Owen owns this movie. He goes through a series of subtle transformations as information is revealed to him, and about him to the audience. His performance is one of the best of recent memory. Truly an amazing experience.

Bottomline. If you didn't get the idea, this is an absolutely incredible movie. It delivers the goods on many levels. I went through an emotional toll over the course of the movie, succombing to some of the despair they experience, yet being uplifted by the time the credits role. I had high expectations going in, and they were exceeded. This is a movie that must be experienced.

Highly Recommended.


Ruben said...

Considering you gave 300 and Zodiac 4 out of 5 "Dravens," this movie should have gotten AT LEAST a 4 1/2.

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