Children of Men ****
"Children of Men" is one of those last minute surprises. I expected to enjoy this film, but I didn't expect it to talk the hold on me that it did. This is one of those films that I didn't expect to suddenly get close to the top of my end of year lists, and it really does grab you from the very first shot. This is easily one of the year's best films, without any doubt at all. 'Children of Men" once again paints a bleak image of the future. I remember a few films where the future was embraced and it looked like a wonderful place. The future in film used to have flying cars and amazing technology. Now it has the amazing technology, but the state of the world is so bad that you don't even want to live there. In this case, the world is dying out, and that is because of one sad and somber fact-that women can no longer have any children. And it's not too far away-2027 is where we begin.
"Children of Men" is told through the eyes of Theo, a former activist who now doesn't give a damn about the world and is content with sitting back and watching everyone destroy themselves. On the day this film begins the world is also sitting back with their eyes glued to the television sets-Baby Diego is dead. The worlds youngest person of about eighteen years was stabbed to death when he refused to sign an autograph for a fan. Theo doesn't really care. His reasoning is that even if there is a cure for why women can't have children, the world is dead anyway. Him and his friend Jasper muse about these things, but Jasper has a little hope. He believes in The Human Project, an mysterious organization that is trying to figure out what is wrong with the world, but they may or may not exist. Everything changes one day when Theo is kidnapped by his former wife Julian. The two of them obviously still have feelings for each other, but are both scarred by the death of their little son years before. Julian needs Theo's help to get transit papers, which are needed to get a young girl across the border to a boat. The reasons why are unknown at the time. Theo does get the papers but there is a condition. He would have to accompany the girl, and he does not get sucked into everything.
The next few lines will spoil certain aspects of the film, so look away or scroll to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it. It isn't anything much, and is included in the trailers and TV advertisements, but it is still something that you might not want to know.
The young girl, Kee, is having a baby-the very first baby in years. The baby could mean quite a number of things. It could be the miracle that everyone is waiting for, and could stop any war and any uprisings that are around. But, at the same time, the baby could also continue the war, as everybody will keep fighting for control over it. In any case, Kee and the unborn child could be in danger, and it is now Theo's job to help get her on the boat to The Human Project-while they are constantly pursued by a number of people that all want to get their hands on Kee.
It is difficult to talk about this film without giving anything away. One of the best parts about it were that I only had a limited amount of knowledge before watching it, and considering every single scene involves some kind of incredible surprise, it is even harder to write about it. I will do my best to try and keep this spoiler free, but you should still read the analysis with great caution. Everybody has different ideas about what is too much knowledge and what isn't, so be warned. I am no responsible for any ruined experiences."Children of Men" could seem like a chase movie, but it ends up being so much more than that. Clive Owen, as Theo, is literally in every single scene, and just about every single shot, and he is at the top of his game here. He leads us through everything, ironically also quite literally. Owen is the definition of "cool", and he has the character and the attitude needed to do almost any part. In the supporting cast, even though nobody matches the amount of screen time that he has at all, we have Julianne Moore who gives a pleasant performance(it's never bad to look at her either), and Michael Caine who does a great job as an aging former hippie who spends his days in his house with his catatonic wife and his Zen music. We never exactly figure out why women can't have children anymore, and the only reasons that we are given are during a joke that Michael Caine's Jasper says in the beginning-scientists seem to think that it has to do with pollution, among a few other things. The reasons why the world is like this are not important-what is important is how the future could change. Kee is quite literally the "key" to the future, and the world could suffer or be saved because of it. In a way Theo is like God, trying to lead Kee on the right direction. There is a stunning amount of focus on his feet, going from shoes in the beginning where he is just traveling to and from work, socks in one portion where he is relaxed, and then sandals at one point when he is escaping from the home of the bad guys. And then during the most gruesome bits he is barefoot, until in the end he finally gets sneakers again. It is a fascinating observation, and little details as him cutting his toe on a rock seem to have a much greater meaning.
Director Alfonso Cuaron gets a lot of credit for "Y Tu Mama Tambian," but this is by far his masterpiece-and when it comes to movies about the near future this is one of the best. His direction is almost flawless, and he deserves to be recognized in some way. Cuaron works well with the cinematographer, and creates three of the most memorable single shots that I have ever seen. Cuaron likes to let the camera go, and he circles around certain scenes, adding handheld camera work for five to seven minutes at a time without any edits. There is a mammoth action scene at the end where Theo is hiding from bullets and tanks and explosions. We follow him for just about seven minutes before there is an edit, and I was exhausted thinking about all the work that went into that shot. Blood splatters on the camera for effect, and it works. I'm not exactly a fan of the shaking camera work, but in "Children of Men" is just adds to the impact. Cuaron doesn't make us just film watchers, he actually puts us into the film. Oddly enough, this mammoth shot is rivaled by a shot in a car earlier on, and in both of these situations just the stunningly intense way it was done formed tears in my eyes. I was so involved in this film that I didn't want it to end. If it weren't for the jokes added every now and then, this would easily be one of the most bleak, grim, and depressing films ever made-it is in parts anyway.
The actual look of the film is equally stunning, and there is a lot of attention to grim detail. An explosion earlier on includes a woman screaming outside holding her severed arm, something that I didn't even notice until my second viewing. Cuaron is indeed an outstanding director, and this is a massive work that rivals anything that he's ever done before. The soundtrack is a mix of beautiful orchestra and vocal work, as well as some great rock hits including King Crimson and John Lennon. "Children of Men" will hopefully be an honored hit, and if it is not it has the power of being a science fiction film that will be treasured and stand the test of time. It is just great film making. I can't remember the last time I was so involved in a film. This is mandatory on the big screen, and it only adds to the experience. "Children of Men" is sure to be one of the best films of the year by me, and if it isn't honored by the Oscars than it is just another example of how they don't know anything anyway. . .