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Children of Men

A movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron

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"Pull My Finger!"

  • Jun 13, 2007
Rating:
+4
Pros: Amazing film, wonderful cast, gorgeously depicted from start to finish

Cons: Hopeful yet inconclusive ending, pacing, predictable moments

The Bottom Line: The bottom line is fit for hopscotch. "Children of Men" is an amazing achievement in today's typically shallow spread of films.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

"As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices." Children of Men is an amazing depiction of just how odd the world could get without the hope that children bring to our lives. In the not too distant future we see the deep hoof marks of four famed horsemen who have been galloping across world society on a pleasure ride.

War continues to tear apart what is left of a childless society as one faction vies with another; a wide variety of freedom fighters, protesters, refugee ("fugee") camp gangs, and soldiers march across the screen with fanatic and stern faces. In a world where all immigrants are illegal and the government sets them out in public cages as a warning, the many faces of war become the neighbors you drink coffee with every morning.

Famine is more common than smiles, and those eating are too grateful to really be finicky about where the meal originated. Pestilence's grim laughter can still be heard as the last flu pandemic played it's part in not only reaping young lives but in convincing the world that there will be no more chances at parenthood. Yet it is Death's knowing smile that we see slyly peering out from underneath so many of the faces in this film that truly brings home the despair which is all that people seem capable of birthing any more.

Theo Faron (Clive Owen) seems like the average dystopian citizen too caught up in the rhythm of his trudging to bother with the government's free suicide kit. Once a cheerful, clever and determined political protester along with the love of his life, Julian (Julianne Moore), Theo seems like a cracked toy abandoned on the front line of society's self-destructive war. Julian however, has taken her political dissidence to a new level and heads up the Fishes, one of the many terrorist groups pushing their agenda against the government's cheek. While it is evident at their first reunion that they still love each other, it is equally evident that neither one has recovered from the loss of their infant son so many years ago.

The only thing Theo really seems to look forward to now is visiting his friend's safe-house hidden in the English countryside. Jasper (Michael Caine), a former political cartoonist and hippie throwback, supports himself by growing and selling marijuana to one of the immigration cops. While no details are ever given, we quickly learn that his catatonic wife was once a photojournalist who survived unimaginable torture. Yet, Jasper seems like the last truly nice and stable individual in sight, and capable of laughter and jokes even in the face of the Grim Reaper who seems to be everyones' walking buddy on humanity's last mile.

Theo is going to need all the optimism he can get his hands on to make it through his life's next gauntlet. A line of graffiti glimpsed in this symbol-packed film perfectly captures the cynical yet resigned pessimism that grips society's throat, "Last one to die, please turn off the lights." In a world where no one can be trusted and everyone is out for themselves, can Theo help to save our last hope? The Fishes are hiding Kee, a quiet but strong-willed young woman who mocks the world's collective despair by conceiving the first child in almost 20 years. Against all odds, Theo must find a way to deliver our darling Kee and her miraculous child to the rumored Human Project.


My Thoughts

This film is based on P.D. Jame's book of the same name. She makes a cameo here appearing in the cafeteria scene with Clive Owens. Darksome, realistic, and as sharp as a suicide's razor "Children of Men" is an amazing film brimming with social commentary, warnings, and symbolism. Shot in a series of long well orchestrated scenes, we get a good hard look at what the world could so easily become. The attention to detail in this dark fantasy is really quite intriguing. Newspaper clippings, headlines, newscasts, graffiti, sidewalk conversations, room contents and individual appearances collaborate to deliver a very elaborate and realistic view of this society which has been blended from several cultures and blurred into a damaged re-forging from the original.

The humor so prevalent in the characters of Jasper and Kee seem to be the only things capable of eventually teasing a small smile, or even more rare, a genuine laugh from our hero Theo. Caine is endearing and unrelentingly optimistic even when facing his own mortality. Claire-Hope Ash*itey (*amusingly enough, epinions would not let me print this actress' name correctly spelt! It marked it as an inappropriately unusuable word lol) as Kee is all that is necessary to fulfill this difficult role. Protective, terrified, quietly yet fiercely determined, filled with an inexplicable wealth of love and hope Kee embodies a mother on the edge of society's collapse. Her mix of innocence and instinct made for a powerfully compelling character.

Julianne Moore's ethereal beauty in this role seems all the more fragile in this brutal setting and yet it only makes her shine all the brighter. I was particularly pleased by the casual familiarity between Moore and Owen during a car scene where they play a silly yet trusting game of pass the ping pong ball that truly frames the relationship between these two characters. This scene in the midst of all the world's chaos served to remind us that throughout history it is this kind of love which elicits joy and devotion from another human being, to the point where the rest of the world seems to fade into the background, that has allowed humanity to not only survive but to develop with dignity and hope.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Julian's resistance chum Luke portrays a very difficult character. Caught between the rock of a society held in place by an adamant police state, and the hard place of socio-political change wrought through even more violence, Luke is the epitome of a radical hopelessly lost in his own fanatical reasoning. Pam Ferris' character, Miriam, has an equally difficult if more enjoyable role in the story that unfolds. She is the handmaiden to a new Eve, Kee, and the midwife on hand to help deliver a miracle she had forgotten how to believe in. Tender, poignant, hopeful, infuriating, terrifying and brutal by turns "Children of Men" gives a visual reference not to be forgotten that truly illustrates the importance of the common Native American admonition to remember the needs of the next seven generations when making any decision.

I particular appreciated the effort in this film to pull in cultural references that add to the weight and feel of the work. In two scenes the words "Shantih, shantih, shantih" are chanted over a corpse and over the first pregnant woman in almost two decades. This is the final line in T.S. Elliot's poem "The Wasteland" whose theme was infertility in a post-WWI society. Originally from Hindu Upanishads, this crudely translates to "a peace that passes understanding" and is highly fitting in both uses. In another scene Theo passes a black and white mural, "Guernica" by Picasso. This painting was done to represent Picasso's disgust over the Nazi bombing of Guernica which killed approximately 1600 citizens during the Spanish Civil War.

But I was particularly stricken by the use of the song "Arbeit Macht Frei" in the refugee camp. "Arbeit macht frei" means "work shall set you free" and was written above the entrance of all major concentration camps during WWII. These and many other cultural references dramatically underscore the message of this powerful film. I will never hear the song "Ruby Tuesday" quite the same way I did before it's use in this film, but it was a step beyond fitting and likely to haunt me all the more for it's use here. "..There's no time to lose, I heard her say. Catch your dreams before they slip away. Dying all the time,Lose your dreams And you will lose your mind. Ain't life unkind?"

Image and Sound: Merriam-Webster defines "dystopia" as "an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives." Director Alofonso Cuaron defined it with his depiction of "Children of Men". Gritty, full textures and details that truly create a vastly different future than most people dream of right before our eyes. The soundtrack was highly effective, and the sound quality of both dialog and score are clear as a bell. Cuaron heightens and sensitizes all of our senses in this film and this impressively heightened tensions and drama throughout the film. I was particularly impressed with this film's moments of silence. While I can't tell you anything useful looking at image and sound in a technical manner, I can certainly tell you that the uses of both were a great tool in this powerfully moving film.


Special Features:

Deleted scenes: Interesting, but certainly not integral to the film. These always make a nice addition to a DVD and I always enjoy seeing the leftover bits that fell to the floor.

"Children of Men" was a very interesting commentary by cultural critic and philosopher, Slavoj Zizek. Definitely a different perspective than one usually gets in commentaries and a unique addition in the Special Features category. While it never really goes beyond a basic level as far is philosophy is concerned, it also stands in no danger of leaving the typical viewer hopelessly confused or bored.

"Under Attack" explores the director's method in this film. He was determined to use long shots that allow the viewers time to absorb their detailed surroundings and lend an air of reality and true time passing. This was a highly effective tool that serves the film well and it was interesting to see the different perspectives from the behind-the-screen point of view of the scene's builders.

"Theo and Julian" is one of those extras that I just love. We get to hear from the actors how they see the characters that they portrayed. Brief, perhaps, but always interesting. I enjoy absorbing this added insight into interesting characters and seeing how that may or may not change my own perspective on the same characters. Cuaron was obviously charmed by the collaborative efforts prevalent during this film. This film definitely boasts a strong cast of characters that support each other even as they oppose each other and the actors' efforts in this direction are another reason why "Children of Men" is as powerful and effective as it is.

"Futuristic Design" Producer Hilary Shor, Production Designer Jim Clay and Set Designer Jennifer Williams discuss for the viewers their goals for this film. They wanted to find a workable balance between making the futuristic qualities just as believable as the real-world familiar qualities, and they succeeded admirably!

"The Possibility of Hope" is a documentary style extra in which Slavoj Zizek and others discuss the intersection of the film's themes with reality. Immigration, global warming and capitalism are all important parts of the film as well as being highly relevant to current viewers in today's society all over the world. A very interesting and thoughtful addition to this set.

"Visual Effects: Creating the Baby" is my favorite extra on this DVD. I was amazed and fascinated by the realistic newborn depicted in this film. I held my breath waiting for the infant to move or take it's first breath, and was utterly captivated by the birth scene. CGI played an integral part in making this film as realistic as possible and it was equally captivating to take a closer look at that aspect of the film.


Final Thoughts: Powerful, moving, dark and hopeful "Children of Men" is an amazing film and the best sci-fi drama I've seen in a long time. A must have masterpiece that is perhaps a bit overpriced at $21.99 on Amazon for the average viewer. It is, none-the-less, well worth multiple viewings with a wide appeal.





Recommended:
Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Children of Men reviews
review by . December 02, 2009
Apparently I love Alfonso Cuaron, who directed both this and Y Tu Mama Tambien (as well as the third Harry Potter film). And, in many ways, I like both films for similar reasons: they work on the superficial genre level as well as on deeper intellectual and symbolic levels. Children of Men is an effective science fiction action movie as well as a stellar vision of dystopia, while also serving as religious metaphor, warning of fascism, and the old adage to beware becoming your enemy in order to defeat …
review by . May 04, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
At first, this film seemed to be a sci-fi film noire in the mold of Blade Runner. It portrays a dystopian society in which women lack fertility. Indeed, unlike a lot of sci-fi films nowadays, "Children of Men" does not shy away from making dystopia realistic and grisly. Key characters are killed suddenly, the color palate is mainly grey, and all of the key characters have traits that make them less than admirable. In one chilling scene, an important character is last shown being taken away by troops …
review by . March 06, 2009
I put this DVD in my home theater with surround-sound and must admit that the last 20 minutes of this movie, I literally felt transported into the screen. The effects are that good as well as frightening. The scene called "ceasefire" was gut-wrenchingly poignant. Now to the movie. It was pretty good though not as great as the critics seemed to say. The plot was a little difficult to understand. It appears that Britain in this wacky future world is the only "intact" country remaining after world-wide …
review by . November 17, 2008
Y2K twenty seven   The world is a mess   How things got this bad   Is anyone's guess     Nations are divided   By fighting and hate   But Britain still stands,   A dystopian state     Women are infertile   No patter of feet   Policemen hunt refugees   Right in the street     Clive Owen is brilliant   Perfect for the role   Entangled …
review by . January 09, 2008
Children of Men is one of those rare apocalyptic movies that stimulates apprehension from the first frame. I can't say that watching it was an enjoyable or entertaining experience for me. It sets up a depressingly filthy, hopeless world that makes you want to drench yourself under a hot shower. Visually stunning, atmospherically bleak, teetering on the edge of terror, Children certainly makes its point with undeniable force and immediacy. It was only a day or so after seeing this film that I felt …
review by . June 13, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Film is great at creating a grimy mood      Cons: The story is created of plotholes--it is the afterbirth of a better film      The Bottom Line: It sucks whatever nasty thing you want to think of and it still isn't even bad enough to be a cult film.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      Ordinarily I stay away from reviewing something that has more than …
review by . May 01, 2007
I wouldn't say this is the best movie I've ever seen, but its close. The enthusiasm of many of the reviews of this picture is entirely justified. Though it is unlikely to make anyone feel 'good', it will offer a thought provoking and chillingly plausible vision of a world sliding into despair. The pseudo-documentary camera work is slightly jarring at times, but lends further weight to the film's sense of being grounded in a realist tradition.    The most outstanding thing in …
review by . April 19, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
I put this DVD in my home theater with surround-sound and must admit that the last 20 minutes of this movie, I literally felt transported into the screen. The effects are that good as well as frightening. The scene called "ceasefire" was gut-wrenchingly poignant. Now to the movie. It was pretty good though not as great as the critics seemed to say. The plot was a little difficult to understand. It appears that Britain in this wacky future world is the only "intact" country remaining after world-wide …
review by . March 29, 2007
CHILDREN OF MEN is a masterpiece of cinematic artistry. Director Alfonso Cuarón, using a screenplay he co-wrote with Timothy J. Sexton, has done what few artists have been able to achieve before - create an apocalyptic experience that is almost devoid of extraneous material meant to terrify the audience and focused the worst of unthinkable events into a personal story about a few people. Oh, the global destruction and masses of dead humanity are not kept from our eyes, but instead Cuarón uses these …
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Quinn Blackburn ()
Ranked #49
Hello, my name is Quinn... yes, that really is my first name. :o) I also answer to Mom, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe … more
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Wiki

Presenting a bleak, harrowing, and yet ultimately hopeful vision of humankind's not-too-distant future,Children of Menis a riveting cautionary tale of potential things to come. Set in the crisis-ravaged future of 2027, and based on the atypical 1993 novel by British mystery writer P.D. James, the anxiety-inducing, action-packed story is set in a dystopian England where humanity has become infertile (the last baby was born in 2009), immigration is a crime, refugees (or "fugees") are caged like animals, and the world has been torn apart by nuclear fallout, rampant terrorism, and political rebellion. In this seemingly hopeless landscape of hardscrabble survival, a jaded bureaucrat named Theo (Clive Owen) is drawn into a desperate struggle to deliver Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the world's only pregnant woman, to a secret group called the Human Project that hopes to discover a cure for global infertility. As they carefully navigate between the battling forces of military police and a pro-immigration insurgency, Theo, Kee, and their secretive allies endure a death-defying ordeal of urban warfare, and director Alfonso Cuaron (with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) capture the action with you-are-there intensity. There's just enough humor to balance the film's darker content (much of it coming from Michael Caine, as Theo's aging hippie cohort), and althoughChildren of Menglosses over many of the specifics about its sociopolitical worst-case scenario ...
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Details

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Genre: Action, Adventure
DVD Release Date: May 26, 2009
Runtime: 109 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Universal Studios
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