If you have followed the career of director Alfonso Cuarón up to this point (which I cannot say that I have), then you would be aware of the fact that he has made a few small, but intelligent films. His only major credit (and by major, I am referring to something that mainstream America would recognize) is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. But no matter what your exposure is to Cuarón’s work, there is one thing that is unmistakable – the man has some serious visual style.
It is that visual style that sets the tone in his latest film, Children of Men. From the first shockingly bold scene of the film onward, Cuarón paints a vivid portrait of our world, 19 years in the future, where women can no longer have babies and mankind itself is fading into oblivion. With a meticulous hand and a keen eye, Cuarón creates a futuristic world that avoids the conventional pitfalls. There are no flying cars, no personal jetpacks; just a depressed, chaotic world that is believable and eerily logical. To say that his vision has created a completely fictional world of the future would be false — this world could stand as a warning of what our world could be if we do not handle it right. But whether you see a work of fiction or a political statement, there is no denying that the environment in this film is what first grabs you.
What continues to captivate you is the story, which was adapted from a book of the same name by P.D. White. It is a story that focuses on Theo (Clive Owen), the classic anti-hero. We meet Theo as a man whose hope has been drained, and like most of the rest of the world he is just biding his time, waiting for the end. That is, until he is tapped by a secret organization led by his ex-wife (Julianne Moore) to help them transport a young girl (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who has miraculously been impregnated. Seeing the girl as the last hope for all mankind, this group will stop at nothing to get her to the coast, where a group called The Human Project will take her into their care and keep her safe.
It is as much the story of a dangerous journey across a war-torn landscape as it is the story of this man, Theo, whose hope is restored as he realizes that it is his charge to get this girl to safety. And while Clive Owen’s performance is not groundbreaking or any manner of thespian genius, he is the only man that could have played the role. He delivers all the right doses of indifference and cynicism dashed with that Clive Owen charm, a quality that gives Theo humanity, even when he seems just to be trying to distance himself from conflict. To complement Clive’s performance, Michael Caine pops up as Theo’s confidante Jasper, a former activist hippy hermit type who seems to bring out a more relaxed, conversational side of Theo. The scenes in which Caine appears seem to give the movie a welcome warmth amidst the turmoil of Cuarón’s bleak reality.
And it is that reality, one that is created so wonderfully, that gives the movie its edge. It is easy for a critic to see a film such as this and blurt out something formulaic like “Jaw-dropping” or “A Must See”, but those phrases do not do the film justice. It is a brilliant flick, a carefully crafted vision of a horrifyingly depressed world that still manages to offer a glimmer of hope for mankind. Children of Men, without a doubt, is a special film by a gifted filmmaker. Not special in the sense that it will change your life, but in the sense that it will make you think – and in the world of modern film, that is quite special.
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