CrankyÕs Flickershow Reviews

By Neil Richter

The Orphaned ÔChildren of MenÕ


         This yearÕs nominees for best picture feature a lot of ÔsafeÕ choices. We have large studio films such as Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, and The Departed. In addition, we have a tailor-made underdog in the form of Little Miss Sunshine, a film low-budget enough to be edgy, yet mainstream enough to be popular. Oh, and its got a cute kid with glasses (the Jerry McGuire effect). The cumulative result is that it just feels good to root for it. The last nominee is a real head-scratcher: The Queen. Reviewers all over have done little besides fawn over Helen MirrenÕs pitch perfect portrayal of Queen Elizabeth. If one great performance made an entire film worthwhile, The Last King of Scotland would be a shoo-in for best picture. Forest WhitakerÕs portrayal of African dictator Idi Amin was so scary it nearly had me under my chair for the duration. Seriously.

         All digressions aside, while I understand the majority of the choices, I believe that one particular film deserves its place alongside these nominees. It features top-drawer talent in front of and behind the camera. It is engaging. It makes you think. The direction is some of the most impressive that I have ever seen. All this is evident upon an initial viewing, and yet it is pushed aside in favor of something patently unremarkable like The Queen. That film is Alfonso Cuar—nÕs dystopian epic, Children of Men.

         If you watched the trailers for this film and found yourself yawning, listen to this: a pivotal action sequence in the film was so complicated that it resulted in the invention of new camera equipment in order to deliver a single-take shot the likes of which audiences have never experienced. All IÕll say is this: car interior. I wonÕt speak another word about it; youÕve just got to see it. From a purely technical standpoint, thatÕs just the tip of the iceberg. Cuar—n shoots in a way that I have never seen before. If one were to count, I am fairly certain that he or she would find fewer than 70 cuts in the entire film. (most films feature 600-700) The result is that the audience is with the characters every step of the way, almost as if they were watching a documentary. In most films clunky dialogue and acting or the intrusiveness of the visuals remains a constant reminder that you are watching a movie. Children of Men is alarmingly clear of these distractions all the way through. Even though this film supposedly takes place in the future, the authenticity it delivers is staggering.

         Furthermore, the amazingly textured visuals of the film mesh with the script to achieve a truly provocative look at todayÕs world. Numerous directors have taken on the controversial subjects of the day with varying results, but few have taken on as many or dealt with them as successfully as this one. Cuar—n goes after everything from the war in Iraq to terrorism to totalitarian regimes with a surprisingly deft touch. How does he do it? The answer is in the details. This is a film that rewards patience and observation. Cuar—n has gone so far as to say in interviews that this is indeed a film about today, not some distant future. Many of the images in Children of Men stick with you because youÕve seen them before. The prisoners with hoods on their heads a la Abu Graib. The Ôtrue believersÕ on both sides who have no qualms about shedding blood so long as right is on their side. Its all there, and it never comes across as preachy. One never feels that they are being lectured. Cuar—n has the good sense to keep things on the base level of observation.

         It is probably best to stop gushing at this point. Needless to say I would advise anyone with a working source of transportation to see this film before they tune into the Oscar telecast in a few weeks. Forget the lack of hype and the abysmal marketing campaign. Just see it. YouÕll be glad you did.


         Neil Richter is a sophomore at Knox College.