Sunday, January 14, 2007

Children of Men

I don’t know what it is about anything that hints of the idea of “dystopia” that makes me enjoy it so much. 1984 and Brave New World are favorite books of mine. I travelled to Hungary and Poland in the mid 1990s just to see the myriad of concrete Soviet built complexes before cheery American chain restaurants were placed in front of them. I love the color gray. So, me loving the straight up dystopian film Children of Men (2006) should not be a surprise at all.

Children of Men is set in 2027 London and the world has gone mad. It’s a police state (what kind of dystopian film would it be without an oppressive police state?), women have mysteriously stopped giving birth for 18 years and the English government is hell-bent on imprisoning (or worse) all foreigners while striking fear into all that live there.

Of course there is a resistance movement to all this (one reason I love dystopian culture is there is always an underground group or someone rebelling against the powers that suppress them) and they are known as The Fishes. The Fishes plant bombs and fight for immigrants who are being penned like chattel in the name of “Homeland Security” (sound familiar?).

Clive Owen plays a worn down man who once was an activist who is drawn back into this world when his ex (Julianne Moore), who is now the head fish, contacts him about helping the group hide a young woman from the government. He has a price and is soon in the midst of a complicated scheme to get the woman on a rumor of a boat that might or might not be real.

Children of Men is the kind of science fiction movie I dream about seeing but rarely get to see—it’s that good. It’s got everything I want to see in a dystopian future: complete grayness, a lawless police state, extreme poverty and chaos, a feisty uprising swelling from the underground and the utter hopelessness that living in a society like this would generate. Doesn't that sound fun? Maybe it's just me.

Director Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) has made a film that is as smart, nuanced and atmospheric as it is controlled. Cuaron never lets loose of the grip of the vision he’s trying to create in this future world. It’s an ugly place contaminated with ugly policies, where the people have lost all sense of involvement in what happens to them, from the government on down.

Children of Men is one of my favorites in 2006 and will be high on the list when I compile my top ten in a few weeks. It’s not only a great movie but one of the best piece of dystopian culture I’ve come across in years and years. Highly recommended.

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