Thursday, January 25, 2007

Movie Review: Children of Men

Children of Men

In Brief: What's Good

  • Noticeably excellent directing, cinemtography, stunts, pyrotechnics, etc.

  • Some scenes utilize mind boggling camera work and carefully choreographed action.

  • Story is simple & straight forward but also has an undertone of religious symbolism.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • A bit too violent for anyone who's squeamish.

  • Some traits of the main character make him not so likeable in the beginning.

  • The ending could have used more closure.

B+ Story
B+ Acting
A+ Directing
A+ Visuals

Children of Men stars Clive Owen as Theo Faron, a jaded office worker in London in the year 2027 who stumbles into a situation of monumental importance to the future of the human race.

One of the many strengths of the movie is how well it follows the cinemaitc rule of "show, don't tell." It is through news reports, billboards, newspaper headlines, graffiti, background action, and very organic dialogue that we learn of this post-apocalyptic world's backstory.

In the year 2008, a pandemic has wiped out all children everywhere and made all women infertile. Adults grieve over the recent death of a teenager, known to the whole world as earth's youngest human, until now. Grief and despair has thrown nations into chaos and nuclear war. Somehow, the only country left with some hope is Britain, now a magnet for international refugees but also a nation plagued with overpopulation, poverty, violence, and corruption. Hope comes in the form of a young woman named Kee, pregnant with the earth's first new child in decades. It is left to Theo to accompany the young woman and her unborn child to safety.

This is, quite possibly, the most visually stunning movie I've seen in a long time, outside of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead of relying heavily on flashy explosions or obvious computer graphics, the director, Alfonso Cuaron, chooses to use special cameras and the art of cinemtography to film scenes you wouldn't think would be possible to shoot. Many scenes take place (or at least *appear* to take place) in one continuous shot, a technique I happen to really appreciate whenever it's used in film or TV. Often, the camera follows the action so closely and for such extended lengths of time, it sometimes feels as if you're viewing the action through the eyes of someone in the movie that none of the other characters can see.

Two scenes especially stand out in my mind. In one scene, five actors ride in a car and the camera pans around to see each actor in perfect focus as well as a myriad of action happening outside the car. You see action occur through the windshield and windows as if the cameraman were a little person sitting on the armrest between the driver & passenger seats. In a later scene, the camera follows characters through a warzone, into a building, and back out of it. The scene involves multiple gunfights, people ducking in and out of alleyways, bullets flying through walls, and even a tank--all in one seemless shot!!! According to trivia about the movie at Wikipedia, that scene was actually done in about five separate takes and stitched together using computer graphics. If so, you can't tell it.

Not only is this a visually stunning movie, but the performances are excellent too. I'm usually not a Clive Own fan, but he's very good in this movie. While I wasn't thrilled about his character's smoking habit or excessive profanity, one should definitely sympathize with his character for all he goes through in protecting his pregnant companion. In fact, there are times you feel Owen and the other actors may have been in geniune danger filming the movie, considering how real the action is. In a welcome supporting role, the always impressive Michael Caine plays a reclusive hippie and loyal friend to Owen's character. Julianne Moore also appears in the movie as someone from Theo's past who enlists his assistance in her dire mission.

The story for this movie is simple yet powerful and poignant. The movie contains obvious biblical overtones with the pregnant Kee representing Mary (although Kee is not a virgin like Mary), Theo being a protective figure the way Joseph was for his wife, and Kee's miraculous child being a Chirst-like figure. Personally, I would have liked a little more closure to the story, but instead, the movie leaves the future up to the imagination and assumptions of the viewer. Also, the political overtones can get a little confusing at times, as there seem to be corruption and hidden motives behind every faction, but that does not get in the way of the backbone of the story which is the protecting of Kee and her child.

Oscar Awards

  • Nomination - Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Nomination - Best Cinematography

  • Nomination - Best Editing

Fun Fact from Wikipedia

In the first part of the movie, British Homeland Security personnel carry Heckler & Koch XM8 rifles, which are currently experimental.

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