Monday, September 6, 2010

Best of the Decade #17: Children of Men

One could make a strong argument for Alfonso Cauron's Children of Men as the best science-fiction film of the decade. Working from an illustrious P.D. James novel that describes a future wherein all humans are infertile, Cauron paints a dystopia that's every bit as grim and cynical as those depicted by the likes of Kubrik (A Clockwork Orange) and Gilliam (Brazil), but less frenetic and more plausible. The futuristic bells and whistles commonly seen in sci-fi movies give way to the decaying edifice of a doomed and unstable civilization, trapped beneath a perpetually grey sky (huge applause for production designers Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland). More impressive yet is the contribution of DP Emmanuel Lubezki, whose gift for inventive camera kinetics makes Children of Men one of the most remarkable cinematographic accomplishments in years.

This is all to say nothing of the story itself, which is brilliantly adapted by Cauron and his formidable team of writers, and exceptionally performed by his cast, headed by Clive Owen. Owen plays a Winston-Smith-like antihero who unwillingly becomes entangled in a hazardous mission to safely deliver a miraculously pregnant woman (the first pregnancy in 18 years) to a sea-based facility where doctors hope to find a solution to the world's infertility, all the while eluding both the government and a resistance organization who plan to use the imminent baby for misleading propaganda. It's a thorough and three-dimensional performance that anchors the whole movie. Julianne Moore and Michael Caine are solid in brief but important supporting roles.

Children of Men tackles complex themes and ideas with subtlety and near-perfect execution. It's a must-see, if for nothing else, for the extraordinary tracking shots.


Much ado was made of Lubezki's climactic 7-minute tracking shot near the film's finale, but his most creative photographic exhibit comes courtesy of this unforgettable chase sequence, shot entirely from the inside of the pursued vehicle in one take, panning 360 degrees to probe the horror and panic on the faces of all the characters as a violent mob rain blows and gunfire upon the car. It's a gripping signature action scene displaying Lubezki and Cuaron's marvelous mastery of technique. Check it out here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great movie

I loved Navarro's work on Pan's Labyrinth, but cinematography should have went to Lubezki pretty easily.

In fact, I personally think Lubezki should have won back to back for The New World, and this movie.