Friday, January 26, 2007

Children of Men

Children of Men has been ruthlessly compared to Ridley Scott’s moody tone poem Blade Runner,a disservice to both films. The comparison is thus: both are most likely (to my mind)the best movie evocations of a dystopic future, and it is there that discussion should stop. What works particularly well in Children of Men is the rapid pace, aided by Cuaron’s decision not to belabor the audience with an excess of expository explanation. It accelerates briskly, convincingly, from the disruption of Theo’s getting his coffee, to the bomb explosion occurring when he’s about to spike it.

The viewer catches on to details rapidly enough, a little here, a bit there, something like catching passing comments or pieces of conversation when one is in a hurry. This film is an odd blend of action/adventure and parable-like think piece; it’s film making at precisely the right pitch. There’s a manic urgency here that stays just this side of panic, abetted by Cuaron’s amazing controlled fluidity of his camera angles and editing–there are tracking shots here that are uncommonly subtle and integrated into the movie’s framework, not mere DiPalmesque show pieces–and Clive Owen’s quizzical performance as Theo.

He’s in something of a daze, a once committed activist gone made mainstream, cynical and alcoholic, slowly drawn back into the action by a variety of circumstances, off on a series of extraordinary labors where he discovers the foul agendas of rebel forces and discovers within himself a core value that leads him to do an unselfish thing. It’s a marvel to behold in a film studded with razor sharp performances.

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