Dysfunctional Dystopias: CHILDREN OF MEN
Children of Men is a movie that I had heard a lot about, but just sort of ignored. I have Ryan Connolly from Film Riot to thank for convincing me to finally watch it. All I really knew was that it starred Clive Owen, who is a pretty good actor, had some explosions (which I saw in a trailer) and that it was a sci-fi film, which I only found out right before watching. I watched Children of Men on a four DVD pack from Walmart that came also came with 12 Monkeys which is a really great movie that I might review sometime. I’m not going to say anything at all about the plot, because I knew nothing about it and I wish the same luxury upon you as I feel it might have heightened the experience.
While viewing Children of Men I was completely blown away, even moreso because I really didn’t expect much. The performances are great all around, but they are not incredibly demanding. The impact of the film comes from the the atmosphere, the production value, the story, and how it’s told. Clive Owen does a good job in the role and seems very real which is hugely pertinent to the movie. I’ll explain why a little later on. Michael Caine has a supporting role which is a little smaller than I had thought, but he’s a really great actor, and adds to the film in a nice way. Also in a co-starring role is Julianne Moore, or as I like to call her “Backup Jodie Foster” (see HANNIBAL).
Alfonso Cuarón does a magnificent job directing the film. He wanted it to have a documentary feel as if these events are happening and someone is filming it. The camerawork is very shaky which is often overdone in movies, but this is an example of how to utilize it correctly. It really adds to the movie and makes the action scenes more intense. The film is full of incredible tracking shots and being a huge fan of these in film it made me love the movie so much more. There are single shots that last over 12 minutes, that’s insane. To someone who doesn’t know much about the production of film, that might not seem like such a big deal, but these kinds of shots are incredibly difficult to do from a technical production aspect. I sat back and marveled at some of them. I sat there and verbally exclaimed: “Holy crap, I can’t believe they haven’t broken the shot yet!”. These long shots are not just boring static shots, but they are completely dynamic and just ridiculously impressive. There is a single shot where the camera follows Clive Owen through a complete war zone of a city. He’s panicking and trying not to die while running through the streets and buildings. The camera covers full blocks and goes in, up, down, and out of buildings. It’s astounding, I’m amazed by it. The took such magnificent orchestration to pull off, and it’s really a marvel of modern filmmaking.
As another example, there is a shot in a car that lasts 12 minutes. It begins as a conversation among the people in the car and turns into an action sequence by the end. To make it work they had to invent a camera rig that went on top of the car and allowed it move in 360 degrees through the entire car. The car seats were specially made, and the actors had to recline and move their chairs when they were offscreen to allow for certain camera angles. There are actors inside the car, and actors outside the car, all working at the same time, also alongside some incredible special effects that most movies would cut away from to provide fake realism. These extended shots are incredibly hard to organize and are an increased challenge to the actors. Entire scenes in the film consist of a single shot, similar to a play.
The production value is through the roof. The sets are huge and amazingly detailed. The setting is a dystopian England, and it looks fantastic. You can see famous monuments throughout the film amid the destruction that’s happening. The setting is the future, but things in the future are old, if that makes sense. Most of everything is destroyed and in ruin, and the set designers did a truly great job. I hardly ever feel the need to address the sets of a film when I’m reviewing it, but it is necessary here.
Children of Men is a true masterpiece of modern cinema and will surely go down in history as an all time classic.