Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Children of Men

Reviewed by: Edward Douglas and Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Clive Owen as Theo Faron
Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor
Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke
Charlie Hunnam as Patric
Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee
Pam Ferris as Miriam
Danny Huston as Nigel
Peter Mullan as Syd
Jacek Koman as Tomasz
Oana Pellea as Marichka
Paul Sharma as Ian
Michael Klesic as Rado

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes
Featurette: The Possibility of Hope
Featurette: Under Attack
"Children of Men" Comments by Slavoj Zizek
Theo & Julian
Futuristic Design
Visual Effects: Creating the Baby

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

"No children. No future. No hope.

In the year 2027, eighteen years since the last baby was born, disillusioned Theo (Clive Owen) becomes an unlikely champion of the human race when he is asked by his former lover (Julianne Moore) to escort a young pregnant woman out of the country as quickly as possible. In this thrilling race against time, Theo will risk everything to deliver the miracle the whole world has been waiting for. Co-starring Michael Caine, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón's 'Children of Men' is the powerful film Pete Hammond of Maxim calls "magnificent...a unique and totally original vision.""

"Children of Men" is rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and brief nudity.

The Movie:
It's not often that a movie has you sobbing within the first few minutes, but that's the eerie effect that the premise of "Children of Men" will have on you. 20 years into the future, 2027 to be exact, people haven't been able to procreate in 18 years, and with the death of the youngest living human, 18-year-old "Baby Diego," the world is looking even bleaker. Suicides are on the rise with heavily advertised drugs like "Quietus" offering an over-the-counter way of making it easier.

Despite nearly dying in a terrorist bombing, government worker Theo Faron (Owen) isn't too concerned by what's going on around him, until his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) shows up after years to ask him a favor. She's now leading a rebel group called the Fishes, who need to get a young immigrant girl named Kee to the Human Project, an organization trying to solve the issue of the world's infertility. The appropriately named girl has a secret, one that could possibly change the face of this dire global situation, and Theo finds himself having to guide her to the British coast amidst the ever-escalating tensions in the country. Even after being abducted by his ex-wife, Theo seems relatively unaffected as they ride calmly through the countryside giving them a chance to reconnect, a brief moment of optimism that's cut short as Theo and Kee end up on the run, not only from the police, but also the rebels. That's all you'll need or want to know going into the film, because like "The Departed," there'll be moments that are more effective if you don't know they're coming.

The origins of "Children of Men" lie in P.D. James' novel of the same name, but it's clearly Alfonso Cuarón's vision of the future, a hyper-exaggerated view of today's world, transposed onto a grim world where humanity's last generation is on the verge of extinction due to their inability to procreate. . It's not the shiny future with flying cars we've seen so many times, instead being a grimier version of England today that falls somewhere between Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys," humanity having given up hope on evolution or technological advances at this point. In response to the ensuing chaos, England has closed its borders, rounding up immigrants and putting them in cages for deportation or worse.

This incredible premise and vision is only partially what makes "Children of Men" so special, the other part being Clive Owen himself. This very well could be Owen's best film and role since "Croupier" as he plays a real person suffering great loss, but trying to endure and remain positive. Owen does a superb job acting as the viewer's eyes, the camera staying on him the entire film so we can see how the horrors of this world affect him. As grim as the future may be, the film allows for a few moments of humor, much of it coming from Owen's dry, cynical delivery and his rapport with Kee, played with suitable naivety by newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey. Most of the film's more entertaining moments involve Michael Caine as Theo's pot-smoking hippy friend Jasper, who has a much more jovial view about the situation of the country.

What leaves an even more lasting impression is the way the film is shot by Emmanuel Lubezki. At times, it's shot like a documentary, but it also uses a few unconventional camera techniques, including many long shots that belay the film's unique sensibilities. In one scene, Jasper tells Kee about how Theo and Jules lost their baby, not knowing that Theo is listening to the entire conversation in the next room. Instead of focusing on the people talking, the camera remains on Theo, as the others talk out of focus in the background. It's subtle, but it's a clever and inventive way to show the true sorrow in Theo, another testament to Owen's performance.

When Theo and Kee arrive at a refugee internment camp with the help of Jasper's pot-smoking police friend Syd--an insanely funny role by the great Peter Mullan--it looks like something out of Nazi Germany with "fugees" being corralled into a camp that bears too close a resemblance to a concentration camp. It's not the best place for them to be, especially when the rebel uprising shows up, followed by the army, turning the entire camp into a full-scale battle zone. As Theo desperately tries to find Kee after being separated from her, the camera stays on him for an incredible extended long shot that puts the viewer into the middle of the warfare, as Theo tries to avoid being killed in the ensuing firefight. When someone nearby gets shot, splattering blood on the camera lens, it only takes you out of the moment for a split second. The impact of this climactic sequence makes you realize that you're watching something that's never been accomplished on a film, and it's something that's likely to be studied by film school students well past the year in which the film is set.

The Extras:
There is a pretty good selection of bonus features here. The following is what you'll find:

Deleted Scenes – There's only 2 1/2 minutes of deleted scenes. One shows a little more of the refugee life in the UK, particularly a guy getting a tooth worked on. Another scene shows more of Theo's money problems as he tries to dodge his landlord. The final scene shows Theo admiring some of the 'rescued' artwork from New York.

Featurette: The Possibility of Hope – This is a half hour documentary on how the world can go down the toilet. Various philosophers, scholars, and activists discuss how political, cultural, economic, and environmental calamities take place. The idea is to show how the world of "Children of Men" could come about. It's a little preachy and one sided, but it's an interesting discussion piece.

Featurette: Under Attack – This is an 8 minute featurette talking about the action scenes from the film. They also discuss the technical and artistic challenges of the incredibly long takes in the movie. This is very interesting even if you aren't into filmmaking. You get to see the special vehicle they used to shoot the ambush scene and it's all done without green screen.

"Children of Men" Comments by Slavoj Zizek - This is a 6 minute documentary where the philosopher and cultural critic (you can make a living at that?) discusses "Children of Men."

Theo & Julian - This is a 5 minute video discussing Theo and his anti-hero character. His relationship with Julian is also extensively discussed. Owen and Moore both appear in this featurette.

Futuristic Design - As you can probably guess from the title, this discusses the low key design of the world of 2027. They describe it as an "anti-Blade Runner" look with a real life design. The thought behind the design is quite impressive. They talk about how schools deteriorate, farms disappear, and everything goes into disrepair as the population dies off. It is an 8 minute video and it's pretty cool, especially for sci-fi fans.

Visual Effects: Creating the Baby - This 3 minute video discusses the birth scene in the film and the shocking amount of visual effects that went into it which you'd never otherwise notice.

The Bottom Line:
More than a few correlations can be drawn between "Children of Men" and Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," as they're both personal political statements disguised as action films, both focusing on men witnessing the harrowing conditions of the world around them for the first time. It's disturbing how little has changed between then and now, but if the future depicted in "Children of Men" bears any resemblance to reality, things aren't getting any better. Despite that dour worldview, Cuarón uses this grim hypothetical future to show that however bad the world may get, there's always hope on the horizon. As a whole, the experience is effective at leaving you emotionally drained and breathless.

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