Yesterday I watched Children of Men, a movie I haven’t heard of before seeing it in the “new releases” stand at the local video store. The blurb read interesting so I borrowed it. And what a great and fascinating movie it was!
I’ll try not to spoil the story for you, but the essence of it is: It is the year 2027, mankind is practically infertile, there has been no baby born sind about 18 years now. Britain is very isolated and tries to keep all the (illegal) immigrants from the mainland under control - with extremely harsh restrictions and lots of violence from the police and army. Everything is very dystopian, the world seems at its end.
But then a pregnant african-american woman surfaces, and the story around our everyman hero Theo (Clive Owen), his ex-wife and resistance-leader Julian (Julianne Moore) and their friends and foes begins to unfold.
That basically is the beginning, anything more and the spoilage would be too much, but rest assured, this is no Hollywood production where protagonists magically dodge bullets.
Anyway, the visual style of the movie is deeply impressing. In a world of ultra-fast-cut MTV-style action flicks, Children of Men scores with extremly long takes, documentary-style camerawork and of course, its brilliant character actors. The longest take in particular, that I had to watch 3 times in a row just to believe there wasn’t any cut in it, is as follows:
Our heroes are running through a dark tunnel towards the street where there is heavy fighting. They come along a T-crossing where some random guys get shot, there they get stormed by the resistance and are nearly executed on the spot. All of a sudden their would-be executers are shot themselves, and the party is on the run through the street again, with the camera chasing behind them. All this time there are cars coming around corners, people getting shot left and right, families running around and hiding, and so on. They get around a few corners, ride through a shot-up bus, and then watch as army troops shoot a building where the resistance hides with tanks. Between two shots they get into the building and up the stairs where there is more shooting and explosions. They don’t know what to do when tank shells explode on the walls of the building and troops come storming in.
The take doesn’t end here, but anything more and the ending would be really spoiled if you haven’t seen this brilliant movie.
I really love movies with long takes and slow cuts, because it emphasizes the actors (and cameracrews) performance on screen, and this one here did particularly well in that respect. Anyone can shoot 2 second takes and cut them together in the editing room so a half-way good movie comes out of it. But working with long takes really brings the actors to their limit, because everyone know if (s)he fucks up, the take is gone and there have to be another 5 or so hours of preparing the next take.
Apart from the brilliant execution, Children of Men is an inspiring movie about hope, the ability to stand above racism and see mankind as a whole, and loyality to one owns friends.
On top of all that I dig the fact that the movie has Michael Caine smoking and growing pot as a die-hard hippie. He cites the fact that in 2027 there are instant-death pills available everywhere (called “Quietus”) but Cannabis is still illegal. Food for thought.