Sunday, December 31, 2006

Children of Men


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.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll go and see it next time I go to the movies. I don't have much time lately ... too bad.

I'll come back for more movie reviews!

james higham said...

The moment I saw Clive Owen, I sprang to attention. Have to catch this one.

Have a Happy New Year, as well.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Mr. Higham ... and for you as well ... I've liked Clive Owen ever since "Croupier," and he definitely doesn't disappoint here

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see this one. It hasn't opened here yet for some reason. I hate to admit it but I don't get the "Theo & Kee" reference... Saw Dreamgirls last night! So good!

Anonymous said...

I've really been looking forward to seeing this film. I'm kind of obsessed with what may happen in the next 50 years.

richard lopez said...

this movie is getting pretty good reviews. when i first heard of it, the film sounded too much like _a handmaid's tale_ which is similar in subject matter. and that movie, despite starring natasha richardson and robert duvall, bored me senseless.

but comparisons to _shaun of the dead_ and _28 days later_ and you've got my attention. gonna seek this one out.

also i'm looking forward to seeing guillermo del toro's _pan's labyrinth_ which opens in sacramento in a couple of weeks.

here's to more good movies in '07.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm very eager to see Pan's Labyrinth myself, Mr. Lopez .. according to the ads I've seen, it's set to open wider in mid-January, and hopefully that will mean it makes it to my little corner of the world

Chris said...

Glad to see you liked Children of Men, RF. This is one of my favorites of 2006. Now, I recently saw Pan's Labyrinth and while I loved the fantasy sequences and thought the real world stuff wasn't all that bad, it was overall disappointing...and this puts me in an extreme flog-worthy situation for all the fanboys out there. But I'd love to debate about this film with someone--maybe that's the mark of a movie I'll grow to appreciate someday...not sure. I'm pretty sure you'll love it, though.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Chris ... I was ready for a letdown with "Children of Men" too, but luckily that didn't come ... I'll definitely let you know when I managed to see the third flick this year from the "tres amigos"

Anonymous said...

... Happy New Year!

Chuckling said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not being critical, realizing of course that a good film should blow through one's predilictions, but after reading your thoughts on Apocolypto (an inferior move in every way), I cannot help wondering what you thought about the violence in Children of Men. I thought it was perhaps the most violent movie I've ever seen.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can see what you mean, Chuckling, but for me, all the violence in Children of Men was inherent to the story, whereas I just Mel kept piling on the gore just because he had the power to do so .. That's just my opinion, one which many people have disagreed with

Chuckling said...

I don't disagree, nor do I have any belief or opinion on the subject to which I would want to convert you. I was just curious.

Roger Fraley said...

Owen's Theo and Ashitey's Kee (get it?) No, I don't and I feel like an idiot (even thought I'm not alone). Little help here. Also about the treacly ending of 28 Days Later, I hear that things go closer to hell in sequel28 Weeks Later thanks to some major America bashing. Thanks for coming to my site for a comment. I like your blog a lot.