Rates: * * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Recently bought it on blu ray for $5.
In 2027, the world’s women have been rendered collectively infertile. As despair for the future of our species overwhelms the population, a totalitarian English government maintains order by force, and clashes with underground freedom fighters. Then a pregnant woman is discovered, a potential symbol of hope and power to both sides. Fearing for her safety, she enlists a washed up journalist to help her escape to a protected refuge.
When Alfonso Cuaron’s technically dazzling sci fi social commentary appeared in 2006, it was mostly viewed as a take on the War on Terror; Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, populist politics. I have not seen it since, till last weekend, and now it appears as nothing less than an eerily accurate predictor of the future.
So much of what we have witnessed in the Trump era is right here on screen. Countries lock their borders, use paramiliatry troops to hunt foreign nationals, and then imprison them in camps and cages. Refugees are demonised, and scapegoated. All of it is explained away as necessary to maintain order and public safety, the news bulletins that Cuaron deftly folds in to fill out the backstory could be taken straight from my local TV network.
It is an alarming and prescient watch.
Clive Owen is excellent in the lead, as a former idealist sunk into apathy after a personal tragedy. But one, ready to be brought back by a new cause. His sympathetic portrayal and natural screen presence did make me wonder: what happened to his career? An up and comer at one time, the only thing I can recall seeing him in recently is ‘Gemini Man’, where he looks and acts like a shell of his former self. Julianne Moore, as his ex, and Claire-Hope Ashitey, as the pregnant woman he has to help, both offer top support in interesting, well written roles.
But no discussion of this film could be complete without reference to its construction, the director teaming up master DP Emmanuel Lubezky to deliver some stunning visuals. There are several bravura long takes, mostly done for real, that put you right in the action; the cafe bombing that opens the film, a roadside attack on a getaway car, and a street battle in a refugee camp are the highlights. Each of these bigger, and more gripping, than the one before it; this is screen filling, armrest gripping stuff. My blu ray has several mini features on how these scenes were staged, which show how boundary pushing the technical team got. You have seen this approach imitated in several films since (‘The Revenant’, ‘Gravity’, ‘1917’), but it has maybe never served a story better.
‘Children of Men’ is the success that it is as it features a number of top shelf talents, working in combination. Film is the most collaborative of the arts, and when the practioners are this good, and this aligned, the results can be very special. In the words of the New York Times: a glorious bummer.