"Children of Men" is a stunning follow-up from director Alfonso Cuaron to his entry in the "Harry Potter" series. A dark futuristic tale, "Children" opens in 2027 and things have taken a turn for the worse. Law and order is more old TV series than current state of things, and Britain is just barely able to keep from crumbling. Rebel groups commit violence and immigrants have been rounded up and sent to camps. No children have been born for 18 years (and the world's youngest human has just been killed, as a news report sadly states early in the film), as humans have become sterile - at some point not that far down the road, humanity will die out.
Theo (Clive Owen) makes his way through life, working in a dull job and making his way home as rocks pelt the train he's riding in. Shortly in, Theo is kidnapped by a group of revolutionaries known as "The Fishes", who - much to Theo's surprise - is lead by his ex, Julian (Julianne Moore). She needs a favor from him: transport Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), an illegal immigrant who has mysteriously managed to become pregnant, to a group of scientists called "The Human Project" who will study Kee for the benefit of mankind instead of using her for their own good.
The remainder of the film largely becomes a road movie as Theo and Kee go on the run from the government as they try to make it across the countryside. The film would probably best be qualified as a thriller and it certainly delivers, with several tense and expertly constructed getaways, such as one involving a stalled car that the characters are trying to jumpstart in the midst of their escape. This is a grim film, to be sure, but it never lingers for too long and keeps moving, with a tight running time of about 110 minutes.
The performances are fantastic, with Owen offering a marvelous performance as a reluctant hero who gradually changes throughout the film. It's a subtle performance, but Owen nevertheless maintains a great intensity throughout. Moore isn't in many scenes, but she still leaves a strong impression. Ashitey, in one of her first performances, is moving as the young mother.
I've always thought Emmanuel Lubezki ("Ali", "Sleepy Hollow" and Terrence Malick's stunning "A New World") to be a brilliant cinematographer, but this is one of his finest efforts, capturing the film's bleak landscape in stunning fashion and often working in long, unbroken takes (several main scenes go on for minutes at a time without a cut.) Production design by Geoffrey Kirkland ("Angela's Ashes") and Jim Clay ("About a Boy") is also fantastic and the film certainly looks every bit its $72M budget.
"Children of Men" is an exceptional, intelligent drama that looks at a very convincing vision of a very dark future. It's a grim film, but it's a powerful one that's well worth viewing.
VIDEO: "Children of Men" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The mostly excellent presentation certainly did justice to the film's remarkable visuals, presenting the film's bleak vision of the future with - aside from a few slightly softer moments - strong sharpness and detail. No edge enhancement was spotted, but a few slight instances of artifacting were seen in a couple of scenes. No print flaws were spotted and the majority of the film looked clean and clear. The gritty, desaturated color palette appeared accurately presented here, with no concerns.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was certainly quite aggressive at times, with gunfire and explosions coming from all sides. Surrounds kicked in even during the quieter moments to deliver enjoyable ambience and other detail. Throughout the film, the audio did a terrific job of throwing the viewer into the middle of the events. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp dialogue and punchy effects.
EXTRAS: No commentary, but we do get a few minutes of insightful comments about the film and its portrayal of a future world by philosopher Slavoj Zizek. More comments from philosophers regarding our future come in the longer "The Possibility of Hope" featurette, which essentially tells us that...well, there's not much possibility of hope. It is an interesting feature, but not exactly bright and cheery about our prospects. "Under Attack" and "Futuristic Design" and the impressive "Visual Effects: Creating the Baby" take a look into different aspects of the production and are informative, but not really in-depth. There's also the brief "Theo and Julian" featurette and a few minor deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: "Children of Men" is an exceptional, intelligent drama that looks at a very convincing vision of a very dark future. It's a grim film, but it's a powerful one that's well worth viewing. The DVD offers excellent audio/video quality, but I'd have liked some additional extras about the making of the movie. Recommended.
The Film A-