With the tagline, “No children. No future. No hope,” you’d expect Children of Men to be such a downer of a movie. Well, it is bleak, but it does provide a sense that not all is lost. It’s engaging and thought-provoking, providing a look into the future that is startling and provocative, yet never lets up for a moment. In the midst of it all, Children of Men also provides a glimmer of hope, as well. This movie gathered so much buzz and had tremendous praise across the board, even inspiring fans of the movie to whip up their own commercials and ads for them (just check out YouTube) in hopes to garner more attention for the movie. While it didn’t work for the movie’s theatrical run, hopefully the movie will enjoy long-life on home release. And yes, it’s a movie everyone should see.
And how does the press synopsis go? In the year 2027, eighteen years since the last baby was born, disillusioned Theo (Clive Owen) becomes an unlikely champion of the human race when he is asked by his former lover (Julianne Moore) to escort a young pregnant woman out of the country as quickly as possible. In a thrilling race against time, Theo will risk everything to deliver the miracle the whole world has been waiting for. Co-starring Michael Caine, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is a powerful film that is a totally unique vision of the future.
Theo, the main character, ambles through life, too disillusioned to care about the world around him (not even flinching when reports surface that the youngest person in the world has died). He’s a fascinating character who lives life day to day. Of course, that all changes when he’s abducted by his former lover, the leader of a group of revolutionaries, who asks him to get a pregnant woman out of the country. Now, asked to basically be the godfather to the world’s last hope, he embarks on a journey to keep her safe. The movie becomes a twisted and complicated road movie, following these two as journey through a dark future. And as the movie builds, we find him changing. We watch life return to this character, and in a way, we change with him.
What this movie does, and brilliantly I might add, is how we see characters as Theo sees them. We look in disgust as women weep over the death of the world’s youngest person. We start to distrust people as he becomes further embroiled in this race to save this young girl’s life. We look in admiration toward Michael Caine’s character as he goes to him for advice and help. We get caught up in his world, and in effect, the world around him. The movie just pulls you into this world.
Clive Owen offers a magnificent performance as a changed man, who goes from not caring for his fellow man to risking life and limb for the young pregnant mother. It’s a quiet and precise performance, not once overplaying his part, but letting the role effectively play him. I have no clue if that last sentence actually makes sense, but that’s how I see this performance. His surroundings build his character. As he undergoes this journey, it changes him up to the very last frame (which, in itself, leaves Theo’s fate up in the air).
And that question itself is just one of many. We don’t know how the young woman got pregnant, or why all women suddenly became infertile. Or how the world managed to find itself decayed into such a state where England is the last civilized country. But the answers to those questions don’t matter. We’re thrust into this setting blind, not knowing anything outside of what the main characters tell us. There’s little to no exposition here, which leads the audience to draw their own conclusions up to the film’s ambiguous ending. It places us directly in the confusion, and why saving this young woman is all the more important. The director’s long takes, sometimes running for six minutes or more, just add to the feel of the movie.
I love how the director presents the future. It’s not full of ridiculous technology or flying cars, but it’s an utterly believable view in all aspects. Sure, there are some neat gadgets and futuristic technology, but it’s not to far removed from today. Usually when a movie takes place in the future, be it thirty or forty years, the technology is so far removed from today, but this movie? Nope. It’s all stuff that seems to be just within arm’s reach of current technology. It adds to the realism and almost documentary-type feel the director is going for.
It’s pretty haunting to see how close our world is to the one presented in this feature. Sure, some may scoff at that idea, but the similarities are there. Sure, details are changed here and there, but the similarities are striking. I can honestly see our way of life ultimately leading toward this kind of end, the end of humanity as we know it. Should we look at this movie as a warning of what is to come, or is this world already upon us? Those kind of questions can’t help but pop up, even just for a second, when watching the movie. Sure, our end likely won’t come at infertility, but we will likely bring about our own end in one way or another. And it’s that is what Cuarón is telling us. There are so many layers to this film that it bears re-watching. The social commentary is riveting, and not all that can be seem in one sitting. What Cuarón presents to the viewer is engaging and provocative, investing us even further in the characters as they struggle to live. It’s ingenious and makes for movie you will talk about far after the credits have rolled.
So, for such a great movie, how does the DVD fare up? Quite well, actually. Universal has done the movie justice, presenting it in 1.85: 1 anamorphic widescreen. There’s also a Fullscreen version available, but I have no idea why anyone would want that. As for the visuals, the DVD looks solid and crisp. The director used this journalistic approach to directing, catching every piece of dirt and grime, and it looks spectacular on DVD. The film looked clean and clear. And the audio is just as great, using throwing the viewer right into the movie itself. The audio sound great during a few of the movie’s major set pieces, like the now infamous car ambush scene. A solid job!
The extras are great, but not as good as they could be. This is yet another movie that doesn’t feature any commentary. I’m sensing what could be a disturbing trend here, with studios holding off on commentary tracks, or better extras, for the inevitable double-sip. But with this movie, I can not tell if a double-dip is in the works (Children of Men: No Hope Edition?). I wouldn’t be surprised, however. Does that mean you should turn this set away, though? Lord no! The movie itself is worth double-dipping alone (if it was bare bones, I’d probably still recommend it for purchasing). The extra features include:
– The Possibility of Hope Documentary
– Slavoj Zizek on Children of Men
– Deleted Scenes
– Theo and Julian Featurette
– Under Attack Featurette
– Futuristic Designs Featurette
– Visual Effects: Creating the Baby Featurette
The extras for the HD-DVD release include all the above plus U-Control, Picture-in-Picture and Ads & Propaganda.
The extras for the standard definition DVD add a nice bit of extra information to the package, but never really go as in-depth as you’d like. The most informative extra is the “The Possibility of Hope” documentary, which takes a look at Children of Men for various angles. For those looking to decipher this movie, this is a good place to start. The rest, mostly featurettes, touch upon various aspects of the movie, such as the incredible life-like baby used for the movie, and some of the utterly spellbinding visual effects. There’s also a few minor deleted scenes that are worth viewing, but do not add anything to the overall story.
Overall, this movie comes Highly Recommended. It’s a shame that is got passed over last year, but I’m hoping that now it will find the audience it truly deserves. The story is tense and spellbinding, the acting top-notch, and the directing is just beautiful. The director is able to make us believe this story, a story that I wish more people gave a chance when Children of Men first hit. This is a movie that has to be seen, no question. The DVD itself does add a few interesting nuggets about how this movie came about, so they’re worth also giving a quick look-over. One of the best of 2006, do yourself a favor and give Children of Men a try. You won’t be disappointed.