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Children of Men 27 October, 2006

Posted by paralleldivergence in Brad & Phil, children of men, film review, Movies.
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I hadn’t been to the movies for quite some time. I didn’t even really know much about this movie called Children of Men, but something was telling me to go watch it.  OK, I probably shouldn’t call my wife “something”, not when she has such great taste when it comes to movies (and husbands). Anyway, last weekend, off we went. It took about two minutes for the film to grab me, shake me and glue me to the seat.

Children of Men

All across the news broadcasts was tragedy. The world’s youngest person had been killed. “Baby” Diego was only 18 years old. Even though the story is set in London, Diego’s death in South America was a worldwide catastrophe for a dying human civilization. It was 2027 and there had been no babies born on the planet since Diego in 2009.  War had raged for years. New York was destroyed by a nuclear blast. England was the last nation to survive and was the chosen destination for the world’s refugees.

So the setting unfolded. A hardline government was ruthless in its treatment of the fugees and ironically, the major organised human rights activist group was just as physically violent in their opposition to rule. In the centre of all of this mess was Theo (Clive Owen), a bureaucrat who through a long-past association with the now leader of the resistance (Julianne Moore), is thrust into probably the most important job facing humanity – the protection of Kee: the first pregnant woman in almost two decades.

Children of Men is exquisitely shot. You’ll be wondering how some of the sequences in the film could possibly have been made. There’s a lot of hand-held camera work and one unbelievably long single take through an extremely dangerous and authentic-looking battle scene. Director Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) reworked P.D. James’ 1993 novel to keep the film rolling at an excellent pace, slowly revealing piece after piece of an enthralling tale that oozes replay value.

Although it’s clearly science fiction, the triggers for this dystopian society that developed over only twenty or so years, have definite parallels in our society today. There is clear evidence of the War on Terror coming back home, environmental disasters, intolerance of refugees and government propaganda all playing main roles in the imaginary situation portrayed. There is a message of warning that comes through screaming to us today that all it will take is a minor divergence of the path we are now treading to end up in similar disarray.

I would probably go as far as to say that Children of Men is the best movie I have seen in the past five years. It is a very confronting film, but go see it. Twice. I’m sure you’ll reconsider how you feel about a crying baby. Have you seen it yet?

One thing that never really was explained in the movie was what caused mankind’s infertility. There are many things that can shake a society to its knees.  Here’s Brad & Phil’s take on it.  Click the link below it for a full size view of this epic cartoon.

Brad & Phil #005

[click here to enlarge]

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Comments»

1. Rob E. - 4 November, 2006

I waited a week before posting this.
I had read and viewed several glowing reviews of this movie (including yours, Stu) before going to see it.
I left the cinema disappointed. So did my wife – we have vastly different tastes as far as film goes – this one should have been right up my alley.

I haven’t read P.D. James’ novel upon which the film is based.
Such a great concept for a movie – ruined IMO by an awful screenplay/script and insensitive and impatient direction.
Yes, the beginning of the film is gripping, but the incredibly poor character development and dialogue left me cold.
Julianne Moore was unconvincing as the resistance leader and the absurd scene on the bus where the detail of a lost child was revealed in a crazily accelerated, emotionally charged conversation was breathtakingly underdone. Frankly, I was glad when she met her end early in the piece.

“She’s pregnant.”
“Yeah, I know – it’s a f*****g miracle innit?”
Give me a break!
And also in the same milking shed scene – why the random, tethered cows, ready for milking in the middle of the night?
Laughable too, his pathetic attempt to conceal a vehicle a scant 20 metres from Michael Caine’s dwelling??
Picky I know, but I paid money to see this film – I expect better than this.

Clive Owen seemed appropriately moribund throughout and did OK with the limited opportunities presented to him.
Michael Caine stole the show with an all-to-brief, vibrant yet sensitive portrayal. This scene – reaching for the Quietus kit and moving to the chair opposite his damaged partner – was the best of the film.

It seemed the the director was in a huge hurry to get to the Bexhill-on-Sea sequence.
As you commented Stu, this was outstanding for a single take – conjuring a sense of misery, omnipresent malevolence and danger that I haven’t felt in a cinema since viewing the beach landing sequence in “Saving Private Ryan” or the very first “Alien” movie. There was a “holocaust” feel about the groups of desperate people herded under harsh lights in the arrival sequence.

I thought the absence of an explanation for the global sterility was OK – a topic for conjecture after the show. As was the ending – it unfolded teasingly, causing one to revisit the doubt regarding the “Human Project” revealed earlier in Owen’s quizzical: “You’ve never had contact with them directly?”

Not the best movie I’ve seen in the last 5 years, in fact I saw a better one the week before – “The Departed”.
I would still recommend it for friends to see – they can make up their own minds ☺ I feel that director Cuaron should stick to directing the “fantastic” for the time being – he seems to have no feel for “real” people yet.

2. stuhasic - 4 November, 2006

That’s a really interesting perspective Rob and thanks for sharing it. The big difference between your viewing and mine is that I knew absolutely nothing about the film when my wife took me to see it, so I had no pre-conceptions of any kind. The film did grab me and I can probably explain the lack of real character development because the society had appeared to sap any positive emotion from the population and the key feelings were fear, anger and prejudice. I don’t know, I could be wrong.

I think reading a review like mine and following it up with other positive reviews is going to build up a pretty big expectation which any film might struggle to meet. I can draw parallels to fabulous reviews I’ve read about movies like Madagascar and the swag of computer animated films released over recent years. I found most of them a real chore to sit through.

Anyway, nobody should be able to tell you what you should like. 🙂

3. Rob E. - 4 November, 2006

I think your point about walking up to the film with no prior knowledge is a significant one.
I probably had built up a higher-than-usual expectation due to the inordinate number of positive reviews that I just seeemed to stumble upon.

I just recalled a moment from years ago. As a young teenager, I rolled up to the Savoy cinema in Hurstville with a friend to see “Georgy Girl”. We were late and just as we gained our seats, the lights dimmed and images of roses began to flood the screen. What the….? We had inadvertently blundered into a screening of “My Fair Lady”. We decided to sit through it – and actually enjoyed it .
Memory seems to treasure serendipitous discoveries.

4. stuhasic - 5 November, 2006

I remember the Savoy, then they changed it to the Mecca. I saw many movies there. I think the last I saw was Reds with Warren Beatty in 1982. Went with my then GF, now my W. 🙂

5. Lloyd Budd - 4 January, 2007

My wife Julia and I thought the movie was horrible, but we saw a screening before the movie was released. The acting was not good and the violence felt flat. Michael Caine’s scenes were fun and memorable.

6. paralleldivergence - 4 January, 2007

Thanks Lloyd. Nobody can tell anybody what they should like. Are you generally a fan of dystopian books and films? eg Fahrenheit 451, The Island (which I also liked), Minority Report and I Robot?

7. William Carson - 15 January, 2007

I am not sure why this film is getting the positive reviews As a film of violence and worst case senarios in your face it does an bangup job. Cinematically, it is very well done from the camara work side. But I have to say that the plot of the film or book on which the film is based is juvenile and unsophisticated. What exactly is the point of the film? Really. It seemed to be a lot of symbolic possibilites of a future based on todays directions with no real thought or even set design for how it will really come about. It really didn’t hang together at all. Even and especially (since thats all it had going for it) symbolically. Again, what was the point or message of the film. Somebody tell me.
Will

8. paralleldivergence - 15 January, 2007

Thanks WIlliam,

When watching the movie, don’t go in with any pre-conceived expectations. The setting is a dystopian world, one not completely inconceivable based on current events. But the whole movie is “for the moment” – forget about what got humanity to where it is, and forget about where it might go as you watch it. Immerse yourself in it for the moment. Don’t worry too much about story – there is one there, but this is a movie to experience. And watch the cinematography.

9. Deme - 17 January, 2007

Hi!

I recently watched this film and I’m going to have to agree with Rob E. here in every way. The beginning was very gripping, as Rob mentioned. I really enjoyed the setting too, although the whole infertility thing was way too unbelivable. Maybe I’m a “realism-nazi” of sorts, but I like my movies filled with facts for the setting and story to be based upon.

I’m not saying people are wrong if they enjoy or like the film, I just personally don’t see what all the fuss was about.

Cheers,
Deme(a friend of Ben’s)

10. paralleldivergence - 17 January, 2007

Hey Deme,

As I said in 8., Children of Men is a movie that immerses the viewer into the setting being shown. It spends little time on the before and after. The camera work puts you right into the action – pulling you out of your current world and dropping you into this somewhat familiar but totally bleak parallel world. It releases some information to you as you move through and along with the film. It’s a different kind of film – very modern and fresh and that’s what I think many people weren’t used to when they watched it.

I suspect another viewing may change your mind a little. 🙂

Ben says Hi.

11. Louie - 20 January, 2007

Thought I’d chip in. It was an okay film. Too cheesy for me I’m afraid and not enough existential crises about the fact that everything is pointless (in their fictional universe and our own). Instead it was too 24 meets the nativity, with ‘anti-war’ and ‘anti-science’ elements thrown around for good measure. Look at what a mess man and science made of the world, but a poor immigrant mother will make it all better.

Bit gaia hippy for me. ;P Seems to me that cinema is the twenty-first century equivalent of the lute player or court jester. Best advice, don’t take him too seriously and for god’s sake (ha) don’t pay attention to his opinion on science.

12. globalizati - 4 June, 2007

Man, I loved this movie too. The dystopian future it showed seemed just close enough to be real someday.. I would’ve like to have known what caused the infertility, but any explanation they gave would’ve probably made it worse than not knowing. Can you suggest any other brilliant dystopian flicks?

13. paralleldivergence - 4 June, 2007

Hi globalizati! I recently picked this up on DVD. The bonus features include how some of the longer takes were made – particularly the car chase. Excellent.

As for other great dystopian movies? These suggestions are much more glossy than Children of Men, but I especially liked V for Vendetta, I Robot and Minority Report as movies from recent times. “1984” with John Hurt and Richard Burton was very well done for its time, but I think was a bit flat in comparison to the book. The same can be said for Fahrenheit 451, but I hear they are remaking it right now. A lot of people like Blade Runner, but I didn’t find it that great. Dragged on a bit for me.

14. nighbird - 30 June, 2007

I recently saw this movie and came away feling that maybe i had mised some of the things. There were questions that i felt weren’t answered very well, but all in all it was a gripping watch.
I wached it a second time and it is still interesting in the way the use the camera to make you a part of – technically good. But as mentioned before not enough explanation about the infertility – the midwife says that all the babies were miscarried and then there were none, but the fishes expected the fugee to give birth to a boy. then what was the human project, there seemed to be many good ideas / angles introduced and nothing followed up.
There seemed to be many scenes as mentioned previous that were important or given importance but it was hard to see the relevance.
Whether it was poor script writing or what I don’t know. It doesn’t mean this film wasn’t any good to watch though.

15. paralleldivergence - 30 June, 2007

Hi nighbird.

I think the thing a lot of people miss about this film is that with all the camera-work, it immerses you into THEIR situation – in their timeframe. We are just going along for the ride. We learn bits about things that have been happening, but I think this isn’t a complete story, it’s the audience being thrown into a sequence of events. It’s very well done. I see no need for a sequel. It’s just a very different cinema experience and once you realise that, you can enjoy the film for what it is. Brilliance.


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