Children of Men – dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Sometimes a bit of technical prowess is all a film needs to assert itself as a classic. It worked for Battleship Potemkin, and it may as well do the same for Alfonso Cuarón’s marvel of an apocalyptic thriller Children of Men. If you happened to have missed the film in the theatre, you missed quite a lot. The collective efforts of Cuarón, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the production designers and sound department could never dazzle as much as they should on your home theatre, because what they’ve given us is a pure, exhilarating work of cinema. And the big screen is the only outlet to accommodate their brilliant work.
Based on the dystopian novel by P.D. James, Children of Men opens with news of the murder of the youngest living person in a world where women have mysteriously become infertile. London, and presumably the rest of the world, has become a crippled state of anarchy, fanaticism, terrorism and martial law. As the ordinary hero of the film, Theo (Clive Owen), a former political activist, deals with the impending end of days with a bottle of whiskey before being summoned by his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore), still fighting the good fight, to escort a young African immigrant named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to something called The Human Project, a group of scientists working in the shadows to find a way to save the human race (which may or may not be just a legend). Kee, of course, has miraculously become pregnant, and Julian’s misgivings toward nearly all of the divisions of power within the country makes her call upon Theo, a politically neutral, generally trustworthy figure to get Kee to The Human Project.
As succinct, intelligent and provocative as the screenplay for Children of Men may be, it functions mainly as a roadmap to its landmarks of mechanical brilliance. Composing much of the film in long takes, Cuarón and Lubezki shape some of the most powerful, invigorating scenes in the history of film. As turgid as that may sound, I don’t think I’m alone in this thought. Children of Men accelerates from the single-take wonder of its opening scene to, at least, five sequences of head-shakingly gallant virtuosity. While the car ambush scene and Clive Owen and Julianne Moore’s ping pong ball trick mid-way through the film will be remembered fondest, Theo and Kee’s descent down the staircase of the dilapidated building in the refugee camp as the Uprising begins brings the technical gusto and narrative excellence to a gut-wrenching conjunction. Again, I pity those of you who only got to experience Children of Men at home; it’s just magical.
With: Clive Owen, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, Pam Ferris, Peter Mullan, Danny Huston, Charlie Hunnam, Oana Pellea, Ed Westwick
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, based on the novel by P.D. James
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Music: John Tavener
Country of Origin: UK/USA/Japan
US Distributor: Universal Studios
Premiere: 3 September 2006 (Venice Film Festival)
US Premiere: 25 December 2006
Awards: Golden Osella for Outstanding Technical Contribution – Emmanuel Lubezki (Venice Film Festival); Best Cinematography, Best Production Design – Geoffrey Kirkland, Jim Clay, Jennifer Williams (BAFTAs)