Friday, February 23, 2007
Children of Men
I am a sucker for a good dystopia and so I had been waiting a long time to see this bundle of misanthropy hit the big screen. And although at times Children of Men seemed a bit too in love with its knowing nods to the present in our supposed future I have to say I found this a cracking movie.
When any western story after about 33AD features a small child who brings hope when the world is consumed by despair you can't do much to resist the wave of allegory that crashes over you. In this, Children of Men pulls out all the stops (in its movie form at least- I am ashamed to admit that I have yet to read the book). Why make your points with a gentle tap when you could be swinging a big haymaker? Therefore we get lots on religion; the miracle baby at the heart of the film brings temporary peace, the concept of miracle baby leads to factionalization that obscures her true message, proximity to the miracle baby redeems even the most flawed souls, and the miracle baby is not born to a powerful or exalted family but rather to one who is seen as the lowest of society. Still, despite being laid on thicker than Tammy Faye's eyeliner and despite my rampant atheism I have to say the device worked in this case, not least because director Alfonso Cuarón seemed to deliver the whole thing with a mighty wink. And if you don't buy the above, I'd also like to say that it was like Watership Down. A bit.
I also have to admit to making a point of watching any film which presents Britain as buggered, screwed, or generally unpleasant- either in the present (28 Days Later) or the future- as this makes reality (however vile in places) much more pleasant when I return there to visit family. As Country Mouse pointed out, rail travel in modern Britain is not too dissimilar to how it is portrayed in The Children of Men but at least people don't throw rocks and molotovs at passing trains yet. Well, at least not all the time. I could have sat for hours just watching Bexhill-Upon-Sea being turned into Grozny. I also enjoyed the visual gags, such as Picasso's Guernica being saved for posterity as the rest of the world collapsed, and Pink Floyd's flying pig hovering over Battersea Power Station.
I have to say that I liked the impressionistic way the characters were drawn. With the exception of one almost clunking speech saved by the masterful touch of Michael Caine there was no attempt to backfill the gaps in our knowledge of the characters. We had to take them as they were in the moment and snatch what inferences we could from the artefacts around them and obscure references in conversation. In this regard Cuarón was much more successful in creating consistently believable people from outline sketches than his contemporary Alejandro González Iñárritu was in Babel. I think pace was the key here- Children of Men moved much quicker and with great tension which made it easier to deal with its small flaws. As Country Mouse would endorse heartily, just because you can tell a story in 2 1/2 hours, it doesn't mean you should. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all (perhaps I should take that to heart myself).
My one major complaint was the ending. To again paraphrase Country Mouse, to end a movie with what looks like the begining of another movie only works for pirates and hobbits (and even then rarely). On the whole however, lets give Children of Men 8/10.