Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Children of Men: A disturbing look at a possible future

Children of Men (sci-fi, drama)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Universal Studios | 2006 | 110 min | Rated R | Released May 26, 2009

Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French, German, Italian, Spanish: DTS 5.1

English SDH, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Portuguese, Spanish

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 4/5

If you have ever seen The Road, or 28 Days Later, you’ll recognize the look of Children of Men. It’s set in the future in a world that looks familiar, but it’s dirtier, grittier and less safe than the world you’re used to seeing.

The movie is set in Britain in 2027 and Theo Faron (Owen) learns through a newscast that the world’s youngest person has died at the age of 18. Doesn’t that sound odd? Have you ever heard a report that sounds anything like that? It immediately alerts us to the fact that something is wrong. We find out that all humans are infertile and no child has been produced for more than 18 years.

If people are no longer born, how long would it take for the world’s existing population to die? What would happen to those already here, knowing that they will be among the last of their species?

Theo visits his friend, Jasper (Michael Caine), who hides away in a house in the woods. Illegal immigrants are everywhere and government messages urge people to report them. Theo is abducted early in the story by Julian (Moore) who is his former lover. Movement within the country is restricted and she wants Theo to obtain transfer papers so that her group can take a young woman, Kee, to the coast and safety.

It’s a brutal existence and Theo eventually finds himself as Kee’s only hope. She’s one of the most important people on the planet, but only a small group of people know why. Theo guards her to the best of his ability and attempts to get her to safety using a contact of Jasper’s to help them. He accepts help whenever it’s offered.

Some of the street scenes would be more at home in a war movie. It seems that the military regularly clashes with civilians and every group has an agenda. It’s a crazy existence where law and order is virtually non-existent, and it would be frightening to experience. Do the people have any goals at all that don’t involve killing and stealing what they can from others? The military prefers to shoot first and ask questions later. 

It impresses me that even though the world is a chaotic place and full of danger, the plot remains coherent. The audience is never in doubt about Theo’s intentions; just his ability to succeed. The resolution won’t make everyone happy. It’s not clear what will happen in the future. This is a snapshot showing one key event in a seemingly hopeless situation. When it’s all over, we are left with hope, and that’s enough.

Video Quality 4.5/5
Although the setting is grimy, the presentation is clean and detailed. The desolate world is often presented in shades of gray, but that’s no fault of the transfer. Blacks are clearly defined and colors are accurate. Scenes shot in the forest look vivid and full of detail. I didn’t detect any noise or print damage and the overall look is very pleasing.

Audio Quality 4/5
There aren’t many scenes in which the action dominates, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix rises to the occasion when it has to. An early explosion is startling, while the sound of bullets zipping past in the final act is effective. The mix is a little front-heavy, but everything works and it sounds effective. There are quite a few songs included in the mix and that’s where the presentation really shines.

Special Features 3/5

The additional features all appear in standard definition:

Deleted Scenes (2:22) – Three additional scenes that add very little to the story.

The Possibility of Hope (27:16) – Philosophers talking about the future and what will happen if we pursue our present course.

Children of Men Comments by Slavoj Zizek (5:44) – Explaining the background scenes and themes in greater depth.

Under Attack (7:36) – Director Alfonso Cuarón and some of the cast and crew talk about how one of the best action scenes was shot using a single take.

Theo & Julian (4:40) – Owen and Moore talk about their characters. Julian was the reason Theo got involved and we learn how he’s considered an ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances.

Futuristic Design (8:38) – Describing the differences between the decay of existing infrastructure and new technology such as car styles.

Visual Effects: Creating the Baby (3:06) – Deconstructing a scene to show how special effects are used.

U Control


Alfonso Cuarón directed arguably the best of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and he’s created a thought-provoking movie. One of the things that struck me is the level of detail involved in predicting the future world without children. His world is believable and I found myself nodding at some of the details. It’s a brutal place to visit, but a rewarding experience. The Blu-ray presentation is very good and fans of the movie or Clive Owen shouldn’t hesitate to pick it up.

Overall score 4/5

Click here to see where Children of Men ranks among my Top 20 science fiction movies.

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