Children are the future. They’re why we strive to make the world a better place, or at least to maintain the world we’ve got. But what happens when there are no more children, when there is no future?
That’s the context for Children of Men, the latest film from director phenom Alfonso CuarÃ©n (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). Based on the novel by P.D. James, Children of Men is set in 2027, our near future. There are no flying cars, or space-suit clothes. In fact, the world appears pretty rundown, and the reason for its shabby state is the most striking difference between our present and the film’s – humankind is infertile.
Their world is one without hope. It has been 18 years since the last child was born, and no one knows why. We learn peripherally that this tragedy was a catalyst for destruction. All over the world, major cities and nations have been destroyed, and England is the last one standing. It’s a brutal situation, with the government holding a hard line against illegal immigrants who are desperate for the questionable and temporary salvation of England. Terrorism is an everyday occurrence, with underground movements fighting the government, and the government hitting back.
Against this backdrop, we have the story of Theo Faron (Clive Owen, Sin City), who becomes entangled in a desperate attempt to save our species, by helping a young woman who represents our only hope. On the run from violent activists who want the woman for their own cause rather than to help her fulfill that hope, police hunting them for murder and soldiers fighting an uprising, Theo must help her reach a secret group of scientists known only as the Human Project. It’s the only solution, but it seems far out of reach.
There’s a lot more going on, but I’d hate to spoil any more than I already have. I went in knowing very little about Children of Men, and I was sucked in to the film’s world and the struggle for hope. The performances- especially from Clive Owen, Julian Moore (The Hours), Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) and newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey – are superb, and the characters they create make the film’s emotions heartfelt and very real.
Children of Men received many award nominations and won a respectable number, mainly for cinematography and production design but also for screenwriting, directing and acting. Watching the film, I can see why. The cinematography is unique, with long, single-shot sequences that weave in and around the actors and the action. Watch this DVD’s special features, and you’ll learn about one sequence in particular, a complex scene that runs about 12 minutes without any cuts, and how they made it happen. As impressive as that is, what’s important here is that the production values make the overall film work, and work really well.
Children of Men was easily one of the best film’s of 2006. How’s the DVD?
Children of Men is presented on one disc, in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format. It looks nice and sharp, and is free of compression artifacts. The film’s colour palette overall is pale and gloomy, and it’s well represented here. At the same time, skin tones at times appear a bit too pale, but it’s hard to gauge whether that was the intent. It’s not really a complaint, so much as an observation, for this is a high-quality presentation.
The main menu is animated, and scored.
English audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. All dialogue is clear, and the more aurally interesting sequences, from frantic chase scenes to full-blown gunfights, come to life in a satisfying way, with effects and score coming at you from all sides. Overall, this is a fine audio presentation that does justice to film.
Audio is also available in Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish and French. Subtitles are offered in English, Spanish and French.
Children of Men offers up a solid collection of bonus material, but where’s the feature commentary? Here’s what we do get:
- The Possibility of Hope: a 27-minute documentary by director Alfonso CuarÃ©n, examining how the themes of Children of Men relate to our present society. Intellectually, this head and shoulders above your average DVD featurette, and it’s an interesting, unsettling perspective on the state of humankind.
- Deleted Scenes: not much here, with only three scenes running just under three minutes. We see a bit more of Theo’s depressing life, and more on the guy who’s working to save great works of art. Neither would have added much to the film.
- Under Attack: good stuff here. This one is fairly short, but it offers some interesting behind-the-scenes on the film’s more complex action sequences, including the impressive 12-minute single-shot, which required a custom-design apparatus to make it happen.
- Children of Men comments by Slavoj Zizek: Zizek is a philosopher and cultural critic, and here he discusses the film in terms of its relation to our own world, and what makes the film really work.
- Theo & Julian: this one’s the most mundane of the special features, as it’s basically a short featurette about how the actors took on their characters, with a focus on Clive Owen and Julian Moore.
- Futuristic Design: this covers how the director’s vision for this dystopian future came to life on film, from concept to final creation. It’s short, but cool to learn about the film’s production design.
- Visual Effects: Creating the Baby: the title says it all, but watch it to see some innovative special effects work.
Children of Men succeeds on many levels, as a thrilling adventure and a dark, dystopian warning about what might lurk inside us, and our potential for self-destruction. This DVD offers up an excellent audiovisual presentation, and some quality special features. Definitely a solid addition to any collection.