Children of Men: A Visually Tantalizing Futuristic Masterpiece
by Alex Billington
January 3, 2007
Children of Men is a profound film, one of the best of the year, if not one of the best ever. Children of Men is a futuristic dramatic action film with excellent storytelling, amazing never-seen-before cinematography and visual effects, and fantastic performances all-around. This confirms that there are some incredible filmmakers out there that just need to be brought to light when they create extraordinary films.
In 2027 the world lives in chaos as women have become infertile and London is one of the only cities not yet destroyed by the mayhem that results. The increasingly hostile environment builds tensions as refugees are herded into camps and the remaining population tries to survive. Ordinary bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is suddenly drawn into a secretive adventure after he is shown the last hope of mankind, a young woman named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who is pregnant. Suddenly and without warning Theo must help Kee reach the Human Project, a boat off the shore of England that will help her to save mankind. The film takes a rough ride from the futuristic dystopia of London to the ravished and increasingly grungy war fields of refugee camps, a visual feast that draws the viewer in.
Children of Men is very immersive and realistic - the filmmakers spared no expense on immense, expansive sets and locations, and yet did not overstep their bounds. The characters fit into the spaces with much depth and incredible camerawork that ought to win Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki an Oscar for the incomparable cinematography. The futuristic style and attention to detail is exquisite and everything is fully realized per the imaginings of visionary director Alfonso CuarÃ³n (Y Tu MamÃ¡ TambiÃ©n, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). What seems like a simple set has every last detail subtly furbished to fit a barren world 20 years in the future.
The cinematography that CuarÃ³n implements features lengthy scenes that use smooth single-camera, single-shot movement over as many as 15 contiguous minutes. This amazing camerawork makes the strongest impact in a scene near the end that keeps going so long, you'll never believe it was done in a single shot. I have never seen scenes this beautiful and this incredible ever. The only other movie to come close to achieving this same unique excellence is The Fountain from this year as well. This is an colossal achievement in its own right, on top of everything else visually that CuarÃ³n has brought to the screen with Children of Men.
There are many moments of sheer brilliance, where CuarÃ³n uses every last sense and feeling to creating an emphatic experience, and it's unlike anything I've ever seen in a film before in my entire life. The intricacies of the scenes and the setups that go into making sure every meticulous detail is set perfectly is just mesmerizing. This is one of those few films where you truly recognize how much work goes into creating a life-changing cinematic experience, and Children of Men will leave a life-changing impression.
Even if you already have plenty of respect for Clive Owen, this will make you believe in his abilities even more. His performance, along with an ensemble cast of Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Huston, and Pam Ferris, fills in as well with the same exquisite excellence that CuarÃ³n implements. You'll quickly fall in love with many of the characters and begin to care deeply for them; this is all part of the great plan that CuarÃ³n has laid out to draw you even deeper into the film.
Is the film a success? Undoubtedly yes - but there is not a clear message for audiences to take with them. Although the journey is long and engulfing, the end just floats off quietly into the fog, without a concrete conclusion or message. After becoming engrossed in its identifiable, gripping themes of infertility, life, and coexisting as a human race, I expected Children of Men to be more conclusive in its conclusion. This ending is the only weak point, if I can call it that, a very fine crack on an enormous marble masterpiece that can easily be overlooked.
This film is a masterpiece, a visually innovative and beatuiful creation. It's a must-see, one of the best films of 2006 (and now early 2007). Cuaron and Owen together deliver a futuristic action sci-fi with bits of drama, bits of tragedy, and a huge heaping of excellence that you will not soon forget.