Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Rambling Commentary on "Children of Men"

"Children of Men" may be the purest form of the milieu story I have ever seen on film. Like the classic novel The War of the Worlds, there is relatively little dialog, and the plot of the movie exists as an excuse to move the main character through the world so that we can see it. And what a world they have created.

"Children of Men" takes us on a journey through a beautifully realized dystopia that in many ways exceeds even "Blade Runner" because of its sheer familiarity. The cars are not ones we have seen, but they look like real cars. The police look like police. The offices look like offices. In all cases the world is subtly different from our own, but only subtly. The clever vision of advancing ten years into the future and then having only decay for another ten years produced a very lived-in look that suits the film perfectly. It was shot in a documentary style without the silly tricks of shaky camera and artificially grainy film that some use to overplay that style. Instead what we get is a series of extended takes that really impart a sense of depth to the world while keeping the scope very personal.

There are political messages in the movie. It's hard to do a dystopian movie without some kind of overtone of warning, but the messages in this movie inform and create the world rather than being stated overtly. If you want to explore the deeper meanings, the extras on the DVD include a very good series of interviews that lay out the sources of inspiration better than I ever could. But the movie allows you to explore the themes yourself without any explanation. Theo, the main character, does very little overt emoting during the film, allowing us to project ourselves onto him however we wish.

I believe this movie will appeal to sci-fi fans of the more contemplative sort. If you liked either The War of the Worlds or "Blade Runner," you should give this one a try. Though it is darker than either of those two. Oddly enough I also think people who were as intrigued with the setting of the game Half-Life 2 as with its action elements will be right at home with "Children of Men." Ditto anyone who likes their post apocalypse stories served up gritty and dark.

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