Monday, January 15, 2007

The lessons of CHILDREN OF MEN

I thought I was ready for Alfonso Cuaron’s new movie Children of Men. I really did. I’d seen a few trailers. I’d heard it was dark and depressing. I knew about its dystopian global-infertility premise going in. But I wasn’t ready for it. I haven’t felt this run over by a film since I saw Melville’s classic Army of Shadows last summer. Critics have been comparing Children of Men to Blade Runner, to 1984, even to The Road Warrior. OK, fine. Compare away. But I think such comparisons only lead to false expectations about Children of Men. It stands absolutely alone, unlike almost any other movie I’ve ever seen, on a political level, on an action level, and on an emotional level. It is — dare I say it? — epic.

I could ramble about the tremendous performances in this movie by Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, and especially Claire-Hope Ashitey. I could go on and on about the movie’s brilliant use of humor in the midst of terror. I could talk for hours about several surprising and shocking moments in the film. I could chatter endlessly about Children’s end-times predictions. I could blather about the horrifying, in-your-face combat sequences that rival anything I’ve ever seen on screen. I could even spend a lot of time discussing the movie’s politics and its distrust not only of government but of so-called well-meaning liberation movements.

But I won’t. I just want to stress one particular point about Children of Men: as bleak as it generally is, this film still offers the antidote to despair that most of us radicals need.

Let’s face it, a lot of us are just like Theo, the former activist turned drone that Clive Owen plays in the movie. We’re discouraged. We’re cynical. We feel overwhelmed. And even though we bitch and moan about things as they are, many of us won’t wave a pinky finger to start The Push in the opposite direction.

In Children of Men — and you’ll find no spoilers here — Theo is literally dragged out of his complacency. His face is shoved into the mirror, and because it is the End Times in Theo’s year 2027, he’s forced to come to terms with 20 years wasted as a bureaucrat in London’s Ministry of Energy. Appalling personal circumstances wrench Theo back to his activism and a commitment to his idealism. He learns to “do the right thing” all over again. Theo’s moral and political transformation is powerful stuff. And it’s inspiring.

For chrissakes, see Children of Men. This great film’s lessons for dispirited radicals are difficult to watch, but they’re vital.


At 5:58 PM, Anonymous GreginOz said...

Am salivating!

At 5:52 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I just saw the movie last night. I still cannot stop thinking about it. You're absolutely right about not being ready for it: I don't see how you can be ready for it. But I appreciate your insight into one of the lessons of that movie. The dull terror evoked by the film obscures somewhat the moral.

I predict a baby boom later this year in response. :-)


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