Date: September 2008
Release Year: 2006, Director: Alfonso Cuaron, IMDB Link
You know a movie is going to be great if it takes your breath away in the first three minutes. Children of Men starts off with a bang; the year is 2027 and due to reasons unknown, not a single child has been born in the last eighteen years. Anarchy has engulfed the whole world, except the English, who are applying super-strict immigration control procedures and aggressive politics to sustain their government. We immediately learn all of these in the opening scene, following our protagonist, Theo, who watches a piece of news regarding the death of the youngest person on the world. Then suddenly, an explosion, and Theo finds himself in a state of shock, watching severed limbs spread across the street. To be honest, I can’t think of a better way to start off a post-apocalyptic movie!
The director Alfonso Cuaron first gained my interest with his work in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. I think his directing was one of the many reasons why The Prisoner of Azkaban was the best Harry Potter movie. Having said that, I wasn’t really expecting a masterpiece like Children of Men to come out from him this soon. This movie is a game-changer; it puts his name on my list of top ten mainstream filmmakers.
The first half of the movie depicts one of the most visually striking and realistic dystopias ever shown on the big screen. Everything looks familiar, the buildings, the clothes, the TV shows etc. but somehow they are all rusted, blackened, and drained from every single strain of hope. Although the ambiance is not as bleak as Blade Runner, it reflects the same feelings of isolation and depression.
The overall tone of the movie takes a 180-degree turn when Theo’s ex-wife (who is a part of the organization that works against the government) takes him along for a mission to smuggle a black girl out of the country, who turns out to be (SPOILER ALERT) the first pregnant woman the world has seen in years. In this second part of the movie, the sense of fear and isolation is still there but it is accompanied by quick storytelling-decorated by highly stylized action sequences.
One cannot talk about this movie without praise to the stunning cinematography and single-take action scenes. To me, long single shots are the guitar solos of the directing world. If done right, they can take the audience to a climax. If executed poorly they can result in a neverending bore-fest. Fortunately, the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and Cuaron turn out to be masters. There are several long single takes in the movie and each of them grabs you by the throat. Cars crash, people die, buildings blow up, bullets fly… all in a single take. These actions scenes do not take away from the message or the atmosphere of the movie, but rather add to it. I don’t remember being this impressed by the visual aspects of a movie in several years.
Talking about the message of the movie, while it depends on the interpreter, I found it to be far deeper than your average action-thriller. The main premise is the dangerous voyage of a pregnant woman cross-country, in a world with no children. However the movie uses this premise just as a background story and shows how the world is drifting into an apocalyptic state as the greed for money and political power grows. Even though this is only a movie, the brute force used by the police and the excessive control exerted on immigrants are a part of today’s world too. It makes you wonder, how long before the fictional brutality in this movie will become a part of our everyday life.
The acting is marvelous too. Clive Owen plays my favorite type of male protagonist: flawed, messy, mentally fucked-up and yet when the time comes he is smart and brave enough to make the right decisions under pressure. Julianne Moore and Michael Cane make almost cameo-like appearances, but they leave their mark. The newcomer, Clare-Hope Ashitey, also puts across a satisfying performance.
The Children of Men is definitely one of the most memorable movies of 2006, packed with a compelling storyline, amazing single-take action sequences and tons of suffocating post-apocalyptic components. Besides all that, how can you not love a movie that has “In The Court of The Crimson King” in it’s soundtrack?
Definitive Scenes: The opening scene at the cafe, The car chase scene, “Pull my finger” scene, Theo seeing Kee at the barn for the first time, The whole final sequence.