Children of Men 

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Cautionary dystopia, religious allegory, and study in choreography of the camera, Children of Men’s grand designs are evident long before the Dutch Master-lit birth of the world’s impossibly conceived potential savior in a refugee ghetto standing in for a manger. It’d be risible if it wasn’t so well thought-out: working from P.D. James’ novel, directorAlfonso Cuarón conjures a smog-bound England circa 2027 (looking much like today, as if everyone’s given up on home improvement), where governments round up illegals and maintain loyalty by instilling paranoia, and a global infertility pandemic has humanity counting down to extinction. When cynic-failed-romantic Theo (Clive Owen) is recruited by old activist flame Julianne Moore to escort a miraculously preggers ‘fugee to the so-called “Human Project,” the initial obstacle is the regime’s closed borders and Gitmo-style detainment facilities. But this not-so-distant future is equally fraught by a fanaticized resistance, notably the refugee insurgency that takes to the streets for some third-act urban warfare. Meanwhile, things go hippie-drippy whenever Michael Caine, as Theo’s ganja-growing mentor, invokes from uncertain ironic distance the Holy Trinity of Beatles, Stones, and Dylan.

Though there’s moments of forehead-smacking bombast, the handheld continuous takes, following the characters in and out of cars and battle scenes, sell the stakes. For pure war-movie blocking it rivals Miklos Jancso, as filtered through The Death of Mr. Lazarescu’s cement-chafed Wisemanisms. Cuarón denies the reprieve of a cut: when a detonated blood packet splatters onto the lens, it stays there. And he consolidates his ambition with an ending reminiscent of a Japanese atomic-anxiety parable (say, Dr. Akagi), out at sea with a man-made natural disaster dimly visible in the background — less escape-hatch fantasy than hope in the possibility of an island.

Opens December 25


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Mark Asch

  • The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

    From a highpoint in subtitled genre fare to Peter Jackson's most ambitious film.
    • Jun 11, 2014
  • The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

    Eleven films, from the Mexican Porky's to William Hurt blowing the hinges off the doors of perception.
    • May 21, 2014
  • More »

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Let’s Hear It For The Boy

    As his latest, Boyhood, proves, no director is moving cinema forward like Richard Linklater.
    • Jul 2, 2014
  • This Is Half a Film: Closed Curtain

    This is the second film Iranian director Jafar Panahi has made since being banned from filmmaking for twenty years, and it shows in maddening, fascinating ways.
    • Jul 2, 2014
  • Two for the Road: Land Ho!

    An odd couple of ex-brothers-in-law are lost and found in Iceland in this deadpan but lively indie.
    • Jul 2, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 The L Magazine
Website powered by Foundation