Tuesday, December 26, 2006

When the world is running down

The year is 2027. It has been 18 years since a new human being has been born on Earth. Infertility in the population is 100% Human evolution is no longer marked by the world's oldest person, but celebrity is reserved for "Baby Diego," the youngest one on the planet. And he's been stabbed to death on New Year's Day (prompting a Princess Di-like outpouring of public grief). Everyone is just marking time now until the species dies out. That's the premise of Children of Men, which opened yesterday here in L.A. But even that simple premise doesn't fully describe the breadth of social and political commentary that the bold film encompasses.

Although the plot is not much more than a straightforward chase story -- Clive Owen's character, Theo, must run the gauntlet of a London on the verge of apocalypse to deliver what could be the key to mankind's salvation -- the getting there is amazing. The U.K. is beset by terrorist attacks within and waves of immigration from without. Everything from 9/11 to Guantanamo Bay/Abu Ghraib to the Iraq war itself is grist for director Alfonso Cuarón's bleak vision of a world without hope. "Men" also represents a paradigm shift in the sci-fi genre away from landmarks such as Blade Runner and the Mad Max series. Where those dealt with the fear that technology (replicants, computers, nuclear weapons) would ultimately be the downfall of society, now it is nature (global warming, overpopulation, *de*population) and man's own reaction to these crises that brings on the doomsday.

Also unlike Blade Runner, there are no massively-constructed indoor sets standing in for London. Excellent production design coupled with CGI-addtions to existing locations combine to create a gritty realism (the fact that the city today can seem not so far off from the 2027 we see onscreen makes it all the more believable). Similarly, Cuarón's style is 180 degrees from the glossy '80s-commercials look of Ridley Scott. This is the end of the world as seen through Saving Private Ryan's handheld, documentary lens. The seven-minute continuous take as Theo makes his final push through the Bexhill ghetto will both keep you riveted and take your breath away. Everything about it feels like what V for Vendetta should have been but wasn't. I don't know if Children of Men is the best picture I've seen this year (it never quite answers all the interesting questions it poses at the outset) but I would not be surprised to find it regarded as influential in 2027 as 1982's Blade Runner is today.


  • Cool...now I feel I should go check it out (I felt the trailers gave away too much of the story and it turned me off)

    By Blogger wcdixon, at 5:45 PM  

  • Hey Chris - sounds like a great movie - when it is finally exported to the boondocks, count me in.
    PS - When I read your post title I thought for a minute it was a reference to Sting before he got all creepy-new-age and forgot how to play music;)
    Did you see 'Good Shepherd' yet?

    By Blogger Beth, at 4:51 PM  

  • it is a sting reference! yes he was very good once. Saw The Queen yesterday, which was excellent also.

    By Blogger Chris, at 10:09 PM  

  • You make it sound good enough to go tho the theater to see it. The trailer didn't do it for me......

    By Blogger Jippy, at 6:28 AM  

  • Love the allusion to Sting.
    Wow, Chris, what a review. Now I have to go see this movie.
    Great post.

    By Blogger Kitty, at 11:36 AM  

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