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From Under A Rock: Children of Men

December 18, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Children of Men
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From Under A Rock: Children of Men  


Sharing movies with your friends is one of the best things about movies. This week I’m sharing a movie with Aaron that another friend shared with me a few years ago.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose A Knight’s Tale. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Children of Men.

Children of Men
Released: December 25th, 2006
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, & Hawk Ostby, based on The Children of Men by P.D. James
Clive Owen as Theo Faron
Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor
Clare-Hope Ashitey as Kee
Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke

Michael Ornelas: I was shown this movie by a friend of mine shortly after I saw (and loved) Gravity for its camerawork. I have become a big fan of the way Cuarón shoots his movies as a result and I’m champing at the bit for his next work.

Aaron Hubbard: So, I realized I saw part of this because Michael Caine is unforgettably unique here. But most of it wasn’t anything I remembered… and that’s a shame because this movie is incredible.
To Tell a Story Without Cutting
Michael: Fluidity in motion is one of the trademarks of Alfonso Cuarón. When you see his movies, you’ll notice long stretches where the camera isn’t cutting; instead it’s rotating around and following the characters, immersing you in the scene as though it’s actually you, the viewer that’s turning your head to follow the action and take it all in. It’s VR without actually being Virtual Reality and it’s stunning.

Aaron: There are two especially notable scenes; one inside a car and one in a warzone. Both are extremely long takes that are an amazing display of filmmaking skill. The stunt team has to have perfect timing, the actors have to get everything right, the cameraman has to be in perfect position. In some ways this almost breaks the illusion (a blood splatter in the war zone scene reminded me this was a movie and took me out of it), but what it doesn’t break is the story. Cuarón never sacrifices story for style. He uses style to enhance the story.

Michael: Both of those scenes/shots are cinematic art at its finest. The scene in the car feels like a cool, niche way to film a scene until you start adding stunts into the mix as well as having the camera exit the car. At that point, it reaches “technical marvel” status for me. We physically see the full car that the camera was just in and ask ourselves how they pulled that off. Then we move seamlessly through a warzone and are forced to tensely hold our breath as we hope Theo makes it through alive. And since he doesn’t get a second to rest, neither do we. Revolution is messy, and we’re in the thick of it.
Closer and Closer to Reality
Aaron: This movie deals with anti-immigration, racism, classism, death camps, the apparent end of the world, and political revolution. So, you know, a delightful bag of rainbows. Cuarón originally didn’t want to make this film, but changed his mind after the September 11 attacks. Obviously some of the ideas were relevant in 2006 when the film was released; America has been wrestling with Islamophobia ever since. But in a post-Brexit world and the Trump presidency, the film has gone from a dire warning to something that feels alarmingly close to a possible future. Which makes the movie more relevant than ever.

Michael: Well, minus the “can’t have kids” part of it, but yes. The nationalistic bullshit in this film is at a high, just as it is in our world right now. It’s literally divisive based on constructs, which makes the scene at the end where Theo and Kee walk through the troops with the reminder that “Life is what’s important” as they hold an infant in their arms all the more powerful. It’s telling us to take a second and realize that the future is what we should be fighting for, even if they are back at each other’s throats just a minute later.

Aaron: That scene should not work and somehow does. Which is the sign of a great movie. The infertility may be a science fiction gimmick, but the message is clear. What kind of world are we leaving for our children to grow up in, and do they have any real chance of success? It’s hard to tell. But I admire how this film manages to have a happy ending without feeling cheap or saccharine about it. Hope shines brightest in the dark.
Expositional Rollout
Michael: I want to dissect the opening scene of this film here because it’s perfect in giving viewers all the context they need for figuring out what’s going on without ever force feeding them anything. Theo is in a coffee shop and we see on the news everything we need to gather about the state of the world. We find out that the youngest person has died, that children haven’t been born in almost 18 years, what year it is, how divided the country is, and that the threat of “terrorism” is a concern here. All this without ever having a character explain to another character something that they already know for the sake of the audience.

Aaron: Exposition is necessary but it needn’t be perfunctory. At two hours, this movie still speeds by because there is almost always something happening. Theo isn’t just told what his mission is; he’s kidnapped, caught in a car chase, and ultimately has to flee from the people he thought he was working for. In the climax he doesn’t talk about what he needs to do, we just see him do it. It reminded me a lot of Fury Road; both films trust the audience to absorb information along the way. It’s a very satisfying way to present a story.

Michael: If a movie this complicated can get by without ever explaining what’s going on to its audience in an overtly direct way, then any movie can. It’s a lost art and I’d like to see more of this kind of restraint.

Aaron: This film blew me away. Its setting feels topical, its characters feel real, its story feels urgent. But the presentation takes it to a completely different level. See this movie.


Michael: I liked this even more than I remembered upon my second viewing. The camerawork, the characters, the performances, and the unique dystopian premise make this an instant classic and one I’ll be revisiting more frequently in the future.


Aaron: Man, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched a film for the first time and didn’t see any significant flaws.

Michael: We watched Metropolis literally two weeks ago, Aaron…

What’s your favorite dystopian sci-fi movie?

Next week:

Aaron: Hey, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Which means it’s time to dig up a Holiday classic. In this case, the Grandmother of all Holiday classics.
Michael: This one never interested me because my mom is a big fan of it, and her tastes are questionable. I trust your tastes a lot more, so I will work to get myself excited to check it out.

Aaron: Well if nothing else it’s a chance to introduce you to my favorite actor of all time.

What Christmas movie do you watch every year?

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Aaron Has Another Column!
My look at the original Star Wars trilogy concludes with a look at Return of the Jedi. Does it hold up? Does it need to?

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The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian sci-fi action movie is a must watch film, one of the best this century has offered so far. The story is prescient and complex, but rarely stops to exposit. There is an urgency to everything. And we cannot stress enough how impressive the cinematography is in this. There are shots that you will not believe even as you watching them. Children of Men is a contemporary masterpiece.