With "Children of Men," Alfonso Cuaron has managed to make the best zombie flick to never contain any actual zombies. And it's a fairly stunning accomplishment.
In seeing his nightmarish vision of "London," a city under seige where the government is rounding up all the immigrants and putting them into camps, the two movies I thought of most were in fact the zombie flicks "28 Days Later" and "Shaun of the Dead." It works so well because you know that, although its a remote possibility at best, it's how we could conceivably end up here.
As his template, Cuaron and several co-screenwriters use the novel by British writer P.D. James, about a future world where infertility has set in and will, eventually, mean the end of the world. As the movie begins, the youngest inhabitant of earth, 18-year-old "Baby Diego," is stabbed to death for refusing to grant an autograph. Cheerful stuff, eh?
In all this mess, Clive Owen plays a civil-service automaton recruited by his estranged wife (Julianne Moore) to help her transport a young woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who holds hope for the future. To tell you any more about the plot would be criminal, so I'll just say you also get the always-welcome Michael Caine and Chiwetel Ejiofor and let you find out the rest for yourself.
As Owen's Theo and Ashitey's Kee (get it?) make their journey, it's often leavened with welcome doses of humor. It may not be "Shaun of the Dead"-style guffaws, but I wasn't the only one who laughed out loud at Owen's response to the query from Moore, "Youre smoking now?" ... "Yes, but it isn't working." The script is riddled with such bleak but witty banter that keeps the fairly standard story moving along.
It's also driven by some truly stunning visuals, the kind that Cuaron just hinted at in his other road movie, "Y Tu Mama Tambien." Two set pieces in particular stand out. The first comes as Moore and Ejiofor are transporting Owen and Ashitey to a safehouse of the rebel "Fishes," only to be ambushed by armed mob. And near the end, as Owen and Ashitey are trapped in the middle of a war zone, it's a picture that will stay with you for along time.
Cuaron's movie is at its strongest, in fact, when it says nothing at all and just lets pictures like these do all the talking. And, to harken back to "28 Days Later," it ends in a much more satisfying fashion than the treacly finish that almost ruined that otherwise satisfying flick: With just a glimmer of hope that we can somehow save ourselves from each other.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Posted by Reel Fanatic at 6:40 AM