By: Nathan MacKinnon
The month of November is the launching pad for many big budget films; I guess the light snow disengages something deep in the brain. Feeling the cold winter air awakens the idea of snuggling up and watching fiery heroes save the day, and the release of the final chapter in the Hunger Games Chronicles is no different. The first of an array of films to come with big budgets and a bigger appeal, the classic dystopian theme is present in The Hunger Games Chronicles. Katniss Everdeen is pitted against a tyrannical regime bent on crushing the little guy. In spite of this, a dystopian look on the world can become blanche, boring and dead. Rarely is something new implanted into these big budget dystopian films; they focus more on level of destruction than the technical design.
Since The Hunger Games Chronicles is ending, I wish to review a different dystopian tale; one that does not simply shoot to impress, but shoots to feel. I refer to Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 film, Children of Men; a dystopian movie that is something entirely different. Set in the near future, the world encounters a difficult issue; all the women on the planet have become infertile. Population numbers begin to sink, and humans begin to look into themselves and see the end of civilization. One man who feels these sentiments is Theo Faron (Clive Owen). Once an activist against overpowering governments, Theo finds himself looking at the end of the world. However, Theo is given a sliver of hope, a way out of the slow progression towards extinction; he finds one woman, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey). This one woman is pregnant.
She is also a refugee, which doesn’t bode well. The government has a strict no refugee policy, anyone found without proper documentation is thrown into a camp. This is where we see a wonderful dystopian themes slide in. Theo and Kee run for their lives against the government and enemies alike. Alfonso Cuaron, the director, does an immaculate job with this film. He is able to juxtapose a dystopian and dying culture, something always present in apocalyptic flicks, with the pure beauty of human perseverance and hope. Opera ballads creep in at specific times, hinting that there’s hope within man’s destruction. Mr. Cuaron was able to elicit an amazing performance out of Clive Owen as well. One of my personal favourites, Mr. Owen, plays smoothly and elegantly a man who feels overwhelming sadness and outrageous belief in dire times. It’s easy for an actor to over-play his role in apocalyptic stories like these, often making the character seem whiny or even dull. Clive Owen genuinely expresses himself through his role as Theo, leading to a more personal connection with the film.
No huge explosions or massive battles here, but the cinematography in Children of Men is unheard of. Emmanuel Lubezki is the director of photography, probably one of the greatest of all time, no doubt. His recent work includes Birdman. For those who do not already know, that whole film is shot to feel as if there are no cuts within it at all, completely one shot throughout. Lubezki successfully shoots whole scenes within Children of Men in one swooping shot. These shots are extremely difficult; they include major planning and preparation. However, when they are pulled off, they lead to some of the most famous scenes in history. Alfonso and Emmanuel do more than that, they are able to make the audience members feel as if they are a bug on the wall, a lucky listener to an amazing tale. Within the first 30 minutes, viewers forget where they are and are transported beside Theo and Kee on their voyage to safety. There are scenes which continue a split second after the last word is spoken, allowing the viewer to really understand the reality of the moment. When you actually see people focusing on these details, it can only make you smile. You may not be able to put a word on it right away, and some things you won’t immediately notice, yet when you watch Children of Men, you’ll end the movie feeling different. The way they shot this film, the way they decided to bring a greater reality to dystopian and apocalyptic films, is amazing. This film is justly considered one of the greatest of all time in its genre. Most haven’t seen it in reality, which is a shame, because it’s one you won’t forget afterwards.
Children of Men is important for anyone to watch. Before you run out of your way to watch someone destroy a controlling government in big hero style, stop, turn around, and watch Children of Men. You’ll feel better in the long run. P.S.: Before I get any of the book worms coming to me and stating how much the book is better, I must say the following. Books will always be better – that’s coming from the movie guy too! But, I am reviewing the films and looking how effectively they send their messages across to me. So, don’t hate me, hate the director who destroyed your book. But, back to the point – find time to watch this film because it brings the human aspect to a genre that otherwise forgets the fact that real people have to live with terrible circumstances.