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Children of Men (2006)

October 1, 2009

9/10 Empty Strollers

Isn’t it great when you go into a movie with zero expectations and it ends up being one of the best movies of the year and one of your favorite sci-fi movies of all time? Effin-A right it is.

Children of Men takes place in the year 2027. For reasons unknown, every woman on Earth has been infertile for the past 18 years, and England is the only country left standing in a world completely devoid of hope and teetering on the brink of destruction. This is the story of an otherwise ordinary, good man that takes on the role of unlikely protector to what may be mankind’s only chance of survival.

What I like most about the premise of this movie is actually one of the main complaints I’ve heard from most people about it – that you’re never told why women can’t have children any more. Global warming? Fred Phelps? Commies? No one knows in the movie and no one knows in the audience, and it wouldn’t work as well as it does with an explanation there to clear it all up.

That’s because Children of Men isn’t about why the world went to shit, it simply presents you with a situation, puts you on the same degree of awareness as its characters, and lets the story speak for itself as to what it’s trying to say. It’s actually just like The Road by Cormac McCarthy in that this is a story about the power of hope in the face of overwhelming despair, not about why we’re all gonna be screwed because of the way things are going now. Spending time pointing the finger at our world today and putting an eco-friendly warning label on the movie would just take away from the heart of it all. And that, dear readers, is an example of damn fine storytelling.

Now, this is a dark and harrowing movie, but I love that about it; that’s how the future would be if people haven’t been popping out babies for nearly two decades, and it also makes every little glimmer of hope stand out that much more. I can’t even imagine the amount of effort and vision that went in to taking modern-day England and turning it into the decrepit England of 2027, but when it comes to capturing dystopian futures on film, Children of Men does an absolutely phenomenal job. It’s not like Blade Runner where there’s flying cars and cyborgs and shit, but rather it’s incredibly believable to the point where one can really buy the idea that if the world was coming to an end, this is what it would probably look like in its final days.

The acting is also solid (as usual, Michael Caine is great in this as a doobie-rollin’ hippie named Jasper, and it’s arguably Clive Owen’s most noteworthy contribution to the world thus far as well), and the writing is good, too (even though it’s hard to catch everything that’s being said the first time around, mainly due to the British accents), but the real stunner here is director Alfonso Cuaron – the guy behind Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the first HP movie that didn’t feel like it was made strictly for 10-year-olds) and the phenomenal Y tu mamá también (DEFINITELY. NOT. FOR. 10-YEAR-OLDS). Like I said, he just does an unreal job of bringing this imaginary world to life to the point where it feels palpably and frighteningly real and he moves the story along at a breathtaking pace. It’s all in the details, you just gotta see it to get it.

And as a film nerd who actually likes to look for these kinds of things, the cinematography in this movie is out of sight. Watch all the chase scenes very closely, the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki uses this technique of “invisible cuts” so that all these lengthy, outrageously intricate sequences look like they’ve been performed in a single take with a single camera, and it absolutely boggles my mind as to how he manages to pull it all off. I don’t know how Lubezki didn’t win the Oscar for this one, but it’s some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen.

Alright, nerd rant over.

Look, I’ve recommended this movie to a ton of people after going apeshit over it and hyping it up beyond belief, but even if you could give a crap about the technical aspects of film making, this is still just such an incredible movie and an outstanding example of great storytelling that it doesn’t really matter either way. I’d be surprised if The Road outdoes this, but regardless, Children of Men is the bomb every time I see it.

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