Monday, August 10, 2009

[DVD] Children of Men (2006)

Help Me

I still can't fathom the reason how this film was left out of a theatrical release here. After all, Clive Owen should be a draw based on his roguish persona and audiences here would be familiar with his works like Inside Man, Derailed and Closer. Then again, science fiction may not be everyone's cup of tea, although this film is deeply rooted in basic humanity themes like despair and hope.

Set in the year 2027 in Britain, we learn that the future is not as glitzy as many would make it out to be. It's grimy and very much bleak in nature, where the world is already collapsing, save for Britain being the last country standing with some semblance of order that's in the form of a police state gone wrong, and the deportation and treatment of illegal immigrants becoming one of the hot spots. "Fishes" spring up in anti-government protests, being the freedom fighters battling for equal rights for all immigrants. Add to that, humanity itself is on the brink of extinction, where the youngest person, an 18 year old, has died, and the human fertility problem goes onto an overdrive. We can't reproduce, and as such, all hope in the continuity of our civilization goes down the drain as well.

Yes, that's an interesting premise to begin with, where we can question the What Ifs, whether our evolution can begin to go down that slippery slope, and if that chief reproduction problem could be tied down to technology, or ecology, that Nature or God just decided that our plundering of the Earth is enough, and it's time for us to take our place in history. For those who had enough of apocalyptic issues threatening us human beings, what with the Sun dying, or an alien invasion, or a disaster so extreme that it'll obliterate all of us in one swoop, this premise is a breath of fresh air, even though it may serve as an immense red herring, that the much larger context here lies in hope and faith.

Curiously, much of the context can be tied back to the current world sentiments, with issues like freedom fighters, homeland security, the corruption of those in power, and even a reference back in time to a flu pandemic which we are facing right now. There are plenty of imagery here, be it icons, or religious linked ones, right down to security issues, that makes this film deserving of more than 1 viewing just to pick them all up. Based upon the novel by P.D. James, director Alfonso Cuaron deftly incorporated many of today's world into this not too distant future that we may be in danger of slipping into (except for that human fertility problem, but who knows?) and the despair that will come and plunge everyone into, which is expertly placed in and around the visual backdrop of the story.

Children of Men accomplished what films like Babylon A.D. failed, where both on the surface deals with a protector of the last hope of mankind, and having to overcome various obstacles posed by those who are corrupt, and want to politicize humanity's last chance for their own ends. It goes to show that special effects if done right, will add a superb cinematic dimension and wow you. Babylon A.D. didn't offer anything new, and neither did Children of Men in terms of its cinematography, but its detailed and brilliantly crafted continuous take in action sequences, simply steals your breath away. And as if the filmmakers here are set on sadistically challenging themselves, they do no less than 4 of such scenes with increasing complexity, that has to be seen, admired and appreciated.

With amazing landscapes created, Children of Men tells a lot without showing you everything in verbatim. It has plenty of cultural references and metaphors, back stories of characters that make you care about them, eye popping effects and an excellent cast, it's no wonder why this film had wound up on many critic's top 10 lists for the year. If given a chance, do watch this film that had already placed itself on my list of recommendations and must watch list!

The Code 1 DVD by Universal Studios Home Entertainment is presented in anamorphic widescreen format, with audio in English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are available in the same languages as well, and scene selection is available over 20 chapters. The disc autoplays with trailers running some 4:40 for films like Smoking Aces, The Good Shepherd, Hot Fuzz, Alpha Dog, The Hitcher, and television series Heroes. Not to forget too is the promotion for the now defunct HD-DVD format.

The Bonus Features are presented in letterbox format, and all contain subtitles. They are:

The Deleted Scenes here do not add much to the narrative even if they were included in the final cut. A total of 3 scenes in letterbox format running 2:22 where one expands on the landscape of the environment the film is set in, one dealing with Theo's arrears in rent, and one builds on the scene with Theo and his cousin.

The Possibility of Hope (27:16) is a very bleak documentary where you have a panel talking about their idea of utopia within the perspective of their various fields, from philosophy to culture, sociology to futurology, involving activists to historians. They call into question the current economic model which is heading toward disaster (not that we already have not experienced) that are now affecting our lives and future. In some ways these interviewees could have been the folks onboard the ship Tomorrow in the film, working on The Human Project.

"Children of Men" Comments by Slavoj Zizek (5:43), a philosopher and cultural critic, explains why he enjoyed the film and talks about the 2 significant changes between the novel and its cinematic interpretation.

Under Attack (7:36) goes behind the scenes of 2 of the very fluid long takes that are the hallmarks of the film, where you get to see some of the amazing rigs used to set up and film the scenes in the car, and one in the beginning where a cafe blows up. It's really a technological marvel at what the crew had achieved, coupled with intense rehearsals, choreography, and the challenge extended to everyone including the actors.

Theo and Julian (4:40) has director Alfonso Cuaron, as well as leads Clive Owen and Julianne Moore talk about their respective characters. Futuristic Design (8:37) has the production crew talk about the look and feel for the film, where they're tasked to come up with an "anti-Blade Runner" look with ugly locations, real life iconographic references from sets to costumes in order to communicate that bleak world without hope that the characters inhabit. And finally, the last feature here is a 3:05 clip explaining the Visual Effects: Creating the Baby done through plenty of prosthetics and CG layering.

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