CHILDREN OF MEN (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
First, the trailer doesn't do justice to this one heck of a film.
Set in a dystopian future when no child has been born for 18 years for unknown reasons. Humankind are facing a risk of its own extinction, resulting to the crumbling of societies and nations falling into anarchy. The surviving populations are forced to migrate to fellow wealthy countries, in hope to seek refuge. In London, a woman bears the sole hope for the human survival.
Right off the bat, Children Of Men is an astounding technical virtuosity. From the detailed set pieces, cinematography to the expertly choreographed thriller scenes. It's just astonishing to look at. Combined with Alfonso Cuaron's (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien) exceptional directorial skills, this sci-fi thriller is just gripping from start to end. The introduction scene explains it well enough already. And I'll be damned if anyone wasn't caught off guard with the 'surprise' in that scene. Cuaron captures the chaotic dystopian vision really well by sticking to a more 'realistic' and gritty feel; being not too 'futuristic'(flying cars, etc), with minimal CGI effects to accompany it. It's technically a marvel that I couldn't help but strike the question: "How did they do that?". The mood and atmosphere is all around depressing befitting the apocalyptic world, but Cuaron manages to insert little touches of dry humor in the film to balance it.
Amazingly, despite the film being set in the future, one would experience a sense of deja vu as the story progresses. The holocaust, dictatorship, revolusionists, terrorism, etc. Much of it is a depiction of the current state of the world. To an extent that some of the images could may well be taken off straight from the news. Conclusively the film acts as a metaphor to the consequences of our current actions, the destruction that we would bring to our future generation, our children. Where in this case, there would be no children at all. The Muslims and immigrants are discriminated, and kept in a prison-like refugee camp under the oppressive regime; much like the World War II holocaust. Revolutionist marches, terrorist attacks, bombings, and military raids add to the chaos that engulf this horrific, haunting end-of-the-world vision. It's ironic that despite facing extinction, human beings still continue to strive on violence and killing each other.
The reason for this 'infertility' phenomenon however, is never actually explained throughout the movie, but it didn't detract anything as far as the story and narrative themes are concerned. Instead of presenting a 'large scale' scope, Cuaron centers the film's plot; revolving around the main protagonist, Theo (Clive Owen), and his unexpected journey in helping the child-bearer to safety. Almost all the events that occur, the going-ons of this dystopian world, are kept in the background. Some would criticize this choice, that it results to underdevelopment. But to me, this is what makes the movie superior than most of its kind; particularly the recent V For Vendetta which has basically similar social commentary elements. Unlike the latter, Children Of Men doesn't resort to bludgeoning our heads with its liberalistic preachings. Instead, the 'realization', subtly but effectively builds up through visual means, making us learn and feel for ourselves the point that the film is getting across. The movie puts us right in the middle of it all, and the familiar events that transpire made it all the more relatable to us now. I was emotionally invested without the movie forcing us to. And the thought that this chaotic world would probably come close to happening considering the current predicament, is terrifying.
Performance-wise, there is nothing much to shout about, or anything to complain either. The stand-out performance would be Michael Caine as Jasper, an ageing hippie. I first thought that Clive Owen was 'droning' a little bit earlier on in the film, although that probably fits his character as a world-weary, cynical bureucrat. However, as the story progresses and his character is plunged into more complex circumstances, we'd get to see the different dimensions of the character: an everyman whose unwittingly burdened with the responsibilty of protecting humankind's only hope. This may be typical for some, but the strengths of the film is not much about characters (as do 2001: A Space Odyssey isn't about a character). It's the idea that is stunningly original, and the equally excellent execution that made this film as spectacular as it is.
With that said, I regard Children Of Men to be the best film of the year. It would be kinda hard for any other film to top it off. And it would feel right at home standing alongside such sci-fi/dystopian classics as A Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner.
My Verdict: 4.5/5