Monday, January 01, 2007
CHILDREN OF MEN
"Bazooka." "I was just getting used to Froly."
CHILDREN OF MEN is Alfonso Cuaron's film adaptation of P. D. James' dystopian 1992 novel, set in a future where no more babies are being born and society is collapsing fast. Cuaron and his co-screenwriters pretty well jettison James' perhaps over-intellectualized story, keeping only the barest bones of the narrative, and creating a far more threatening world of terrorist attacks and generalized despair. An informed viewer will be able to catch echoes of Gitmo and Abu Ghrabe as well as of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR.
The new story centers on Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a low-level bureaucrat at the British Ministry of Energy. He is gradually drawn into an underground conspiracy to protect the only known pregnant woman in the world from the clutches of the pretty plainly untrustworthy government of which he is a part. This involves a series of increasingly hair-raising action sequences, including one ingenious sequence involving an escape and chase via a car that refuses to start.
Cuaron, whose HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN is the only one of the franchise worth seeing more than once, keeps CHILDREN OF MEN full of fascinating details (a kitten that gradually claws its way up Owen's pantleg, graffitti taken from Picasso's Guernica, lots of interesting animal imagery, including a reference to the cover of Pink Floyd's album Animals) that never seem shoehorned into the film for their own sakes, but seem designed to help keep the film alive, from sinking into a mass of genre cliches. Make no mistake, there is a lot more to this film than Spielbergian Big Set Pieces. It is interesting to compare the ending of CHILDREN OF MEN with the ending of Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS, to see the difference between a film that ends on a note of genuinely moving if qualified optimism, rather than sheer pandering knee-jerk sentimentality.
See it. See it now. Turn off your computer and go.