22 February 2010

Not All Hope Is Lost. Yet.

This past weekend I was in a dystopian Blade Runner-ish kind of mood (blame all the winter grey outside) and needed a movie to match it. Scrolled through my movies and decided to watch Children Of Men, which I'd been neglecting for a couple of years for some reason or another.
As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices.
- "Miriam"
Well, it definitely fulfilled on all fronts. Children Of Men is set in the not-too-distant future. Women, for reasons unexplained, are no longer able to bear children and (as a result?) global society has largely deteriorated into anarchy and chaos. England is the only remaining "stable" country, having become a brutal police state rounding up immigrants and generally terrorizing its own citizens. There was an omnipresent undercurrent of barely-restrained tension. It was terrific.

The first thing that struck me was how incredibly grimy the environments looked. I have to give it up to Alfonso Cuarón's set designer -- you could've dropped Marcus and Dominic from Gears Of War into this movie and they'd feel right at home. Set design usually serves to set the tone for the movie, but in this case the pieces were characters themselves. The future looks exhausted, repressed and utterly bleak.


Clive Owen plays a former activist who gets in over his head by agreeing to help smuggle a pregnant woman to the relatively safe confines of The Human Project, an organization devoted to researching why the world has become infertile. However, trust in other people during the journey becomes an increasingly valuable commodity, and things go awry very fast.

Beautifully scored and acted with roles by Michael Caine, Julianne Moore and Clare-Hope Ashitey, Children Of Men is a fascinating blend of violent action, social commentary and chase thriller. It raises interesting questions about how (quickly) we would devolve if we had, literally, nothing left to hope for. These moments of relatively quiet contemplation are interspersed with scenes of despair and sudden violence, which thankfully are never over-the-top or implausible. There are several visually enthralling takes in the film, my favorite being a 6+ minute siege scene in the final third that completely encapsulates the feeling of desperation, fear, dread and hopelessness pervasive to the movie's message.

If you have a couple of hours to devote to a singular movie experience, I'd recommend Children Of Men. It'll stay with you long after the screen goes dark, and might spark an interesting conversation or two. After watching the movie, check out the movie trivia on IMDB, which made me appreciate it even more and warrants subsequent viewings.

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