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The Quixotic Engineer

Friday, July 20, 2007

Children of Men

TV Reporter: The world was stunned today by the death of Diego Ricardo, the youngest person on the planet. [...] He was 18 years, 4 months, 20 days, 16 hours, and 8 minutes old.

Children of Men

I've always had a fascination with narratives set in a dystopian future (see 1984, Brazil, Brave New World, Blade Runner, even Half-Life 2). The good ones evoke a convincing world that could conceivably represent our own future. The great ones use this world to explore philosophical and moral issues. What struck me as unique about the film Children of Men, however, was how it presented a world rocked by an extension of our own contemporary Western issues: divisive immigration policies, xenophobia, terrorism, and overzealous homeland security. This picture of the world looks and feels real; it is by far the most convincing vision of the future I have ever seen.

The world of 2027 is on the brink of ruin; two decade of inexplicable human infertility have led to widespread societal collapse. The film is set in Britain, where the anti-immigrant sentiment has been pushed to the extreme. The oppressive government ships thousands of illegal immigrants to sprawling refugee camps, with imagery and brutality that echo the Holocaust.

Children of Men

The plot follows Theo Faron (Clive Owen), an activist turned bureaucrat, who, due to a string of complex events, becomes the guardian of what may be mankind's only hope for survival: a miraculously pregnant woman named Kee. While the plot is excellent, it's the imagery, setting and cinematography that are the real stars of this film. Very little is explicitly stated; it's the visuals, such as a country field filled with the burning corpses of livestock, that tell the story of society's collapse. Many scenes are done with a single unbroken wide shot, which allows the viewer to take in the richness of the landscape.

Children of Men is quite simply a remarkably good movie, and I would recommend it without reserve to anyone. Whether it's the bleak landscape, the tremendous visuals or the touching characters and dialogue, everyone will be able to find a part of this film that affects them in a very profound and meaningful way.

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