Children of Men DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Some great performances from Clive Owen and newbie Claire-Hope Ash*tey, with some astounding direction from Alfonso Cuaron, and unique special features.
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Some great performances from Clive Owen and newbie Claire-Hope Ash*tey, with some astounding direction from Alfonso Cuaron, and unique special features.
Some scripting issues and oddly-billed, sparse performances from Julianne Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Children of Men was one of the many movies that I hadn't had a chance to see during its theatrical release, not because I wasn't inclined to see it, but because it was never released in my area. This happens a lot, and, while I'm normally able to see all five Best Picture Oscar nominees, the nominated pictures in other categories like Cinematography, Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay don't necessarily make it to my neck of the globe, theatrically. So it's usually a bit of a wait for me to see some of the best movies of the year, and, in most cases, like Children of Men, it's well worth it.

This movie, based off the P.D. James novel, gives us a very very bleak look at the future. It's London in the year 2027 and, while local advertisements give the impression that in this newly war-torn world, London is the best place on Earth to be, it still looks pretty damn horrible. War and chaos are around every corner and, while said war and chaos aren't explained to a great extent, the decaying fabric of the world all boils down to one simple fact: women have become infertile and a baby hasn't been born since 2009, 18 years ago. And, if that wasn't bad enough, the movie opens with the tragic occurance of that last baby, Baby Diego, dying. No, things are not so rosy over in Jolly Old. Right after learning the news of Baby Diego dying, the disenfranchised Theo (Clive Owen) almost dies in a bombing. Luckily for him, and for humanity, he escaped unscathed, as he learns from his ex-lover Julian (Julianne Moore) of a miracle, one that he is asked to help survive: a pregnant woman.

One of the few downfalls of the flick is how they practically avoid how this wicked world came to be. This is odd, also, since there were 5 screenwriters credited here (Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and director Alfonso Cuaron). The scribes skirt swiftly around the clear issues and questions of, well, how the crap women became infertile. Sure, it's brought up a few times but either they're trying to convey that people really don't care that much, or they just wanted to give it an aura of mystery, or something. They also dance around just the sheer chaotic nature that the world has become here. Now, one would think, that a world populace that can't reproduce, wouldn't be so trigger-happy. I would think, something along the lines of world peace would ensue, with the world sitting back and waiting for that miracle to come alone. I guess that's just me, though. But, hisorical backgrounds aside, the movie does a damn spiffy job in compensating for those shortcomings.

I was quite surprised to see an ample amount of sly humor thrown in here, especially since the trailer and promo materials had this movie pegged as quite dark. Clive Owen, who's REALLY starting to pick his projects a lot better, has some wonderfully sardonic one-liners here, adding some zing to the dreariness. We also get a spunky performance from newcomer Claire-Hope Ash*tey, as Kee the pregnant miracle lady. I was also quite surprised at the sparse performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore, after being prominently featured in the trailers. I was also surprised to see the marvelous Charlie Hunnam here, although you rarely saw his face and heard him more than you saw him, sadly.

The aforementioned quintet of screenwriters do manage to come through, overall, with some snappy dialogue and unique little twists thrown seemingly random-like throughout the plotline. Director Alfonso Cuaron shines once again, pulling together a movie that, at times, can seem like a hodge-podge of different genres, from war to dry-comedy, and pulling it all off superbly.

While I would've loved to know more of how they got to the point before Children of Men started, I'm more than satisfied with the happenings after, and how they're portrayed on both sides of the camera.

Those script defeciencies
We start off with some Deleted Scenes here, but there are only three of them, tallying a whopping two minutes and 20 seconds, and none of it is worth watching.

Next up is a doc*mentary from Cuaron himself entitled The Possibility of Hope. This doc has Cuaron interviewing a number of historians and sociologists and economists and philosophers and other thinkers, talking about the issues that are touched on in the movie, mainly how they relate to our corrent world. Cuaron cuts in odd images from around the world, done with all of these thinkers giving us nuggets of thought for the soundtrack. It's about 27 minutes long, and it presents some very different arguments for why the world is what it is, and why or how we should change it.

Next up are some Comments by Slajov Zizek who was one of the phillosophers in the last segment. He brings up some very interesting points about the movie, talking about foreground/background and many other aspects. It's about 6 minutes long and he gives us a different, thinking-man's take on the movie.

Under Attack is a featurette describing the amazing action sequences in the movie. One of the most noticeable aspects of Cuaron's direction here is his use of incredibly long takes without any cuts. One of the most amazing sequences in the film is a scene in a car that lasts 12 minutes, full of action inside and outside the car, and it's all done without a single cut. To acheive this remarkable scene, they built this unprecedented mobile camera vehicular unit that has cameras covering all angles outside the car, and inside with this "Doggicam" which is a remote-controlled camera on a track in the roof that can reach every corner of the car. The whole thing is really quite astounding, actually. From there we go on to the opening explosion scene, and the chaos that ensued there. This great segment is 7 and a half minutes long, and well worth it to watch, folks.

Theo and Julian is up next, which has many different people from the flick talking about the two main characters. It's all stuff we all really know, and it's only about 4 minutes long and kind of boring.

Futuristic Design talks about the production design of the film, how gritty and real they tried to make it, while still making it look like a futuristic grim reality. It's 8 minutes long, with some nice insight into how much detail goes into this aspect of filming.

Lastly we get Visual Effects: Creating the Baby, which is a very very slick look at the scene where the baby is delivered. It's only three minutes long, but they show that scene, basically in real-time, and show us the different layers that go into the ambience of the room and the creating of the actual baby. The whole thing is really quite something, and while it's the shortest feature here, I think it's the coolest.
The disc is presented in the anamorphic widescreen format, in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 format.
This packaging is a bit odd to me. For one, I've never seen a movie that had been nominated for multiple Academy Awards not even mention them on the packaging. True, the nominations were for Cinematography, Editing and Screenplay, but I'm surprised they didn't just say "3 Academy Award Nominations!" or something. Anyway, the front has a shot of Owen hiding behind a wall on the left sliver of the cover, with a big title card and odd tagline spaced out to try and fill in the rest. The back is done much better, with a nice synopsis and some random shots along with a detailed Special Features box above the billing block and tech specs. Nice work on the back, but crappy job on the front.
Children of Men is a damn-good movie that gives us a disturbingly real look into the future, and shows us the magnificent talent of Alfonso Cuaron.

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