Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Fate of the 'Children of Men'

There are always movies one wants to see and movies one ought to see, and 'Children of Men' is one of the latter. My son David has been anxious to see this rather dark vision of the future (set in 2027), and I agreed it should be seen, not least because it is based on a novel by one of my very favorite British authors-- P.D. James, a formidable crime fiction writer of the classic sort. The movie is rated R, due to the violence and it runs under 2 hours (one hour and 49 minutes). It has a remarkable all star cast including Clive Owen (who plays Theo, perhaps the redeemer God figure in the film). Julianne Moore and Michael Caine (as a truly hip aging hippie who still loves to hear the Rolling Stones' classic tune "Ruby Tuesday") to mention three names. On top of this the cinematography is as vivid and gripping as Saving Private Ryan's grey and blue and dark hues. Indeed the climax of the movie is in someways most reminiscent of that movie with its war scenes. The movie is said to be science fiction, but I would say its more futuristic in character, without outerspace or space age technology in any way breaking into the plot. Indeed the world is less civilized and advanced than it is now in so many ways-- the rule of law and order is breaking down and even basic services like public transportation are barely function. The world is coming apart at the seams and there are no super heroes coming to the rescue. Old Great Britain is still soldiering on and trying to keep chaos at bay, but just bearly. Things look grim for the human race not least because the whole world is apparently infertile. There are no Neo's of Matrix fame to come to the rescue, only a Theo who has no magic powers and no obvious solutions.

Into this theater noire scenario comes an African woman who somehow gotten pregnant. The governmental officials do not yet know about it, but the countercultural Fish movement do, and it is no accident that the woman jokes about a virginal conception producing this pregnancy. In other words, the Christian symbolism in this apocalypse now styled film is pregnant, so to speak. The goal is to protect this woman and her child and get her to the 'Human Project' where apparently she will be kept safe. While 'Theo' is no Joseph, he does find it his job to safely deliver mother and child to the aforementioned 'Project' safe and sound. Along the way there are numerous trials and trbulations as friends and foes alike are dropping like flies. The threat of the slaughter of the one and only innocent left on planet earth is ever present.

For those who are not film afficiandos, the work of Alfonso Curaon will probably be mostly unknown except for his one big box office film-- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azekeban. He brings a form of filming that makes one feel as if one is present in the movie. This is not a popcorn film. You have to spend too much time yelling 'look out' and ducking yourself. This is not because there is a lot of emphasis on gore in the movie. There is not. Curaon has far too many good ideas to waste his time on gore for gore's sake or for its shock value (unlike some of Mel Gibson's work). And Curaon is a master of editing as well, so when things get bumpy so too does the camera work.

For the Christian this movie is important to see to understand the psyche of an incereasingly godless and violent culture that lives on the emotion of fear, and is often in despair, a culture that does not yet understand that violence only begets violence and leads to a downward spiral which may be called a death dance.

Yet this movie is by no means a traditional doomsday warning. Theo is someone to reckon with and shows what human sacrifice and determination can accomplish, while waiting for one's ship called Tomorrow to come in. And there is that mother and child as well.

Even in its darkest moments, the miracle of the birth of this child leaves even hardened soldiers stunned and in awe of what new creation, new life can bring. So buckle on your chin strap, and prepare to run the gauntlet for peace and safety with the future in your hands. In the end this is a much more human and even humane movie, however dark, than the Matrix movies, and more stirring than the ode to war heroes called Saving Private Ryan that it looks so much like. In the end, saving baby Dylan (for Bob Dylan) proves to be a more moving war tale than saving Private Ryan, and that is saying something.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your thoughts...
I saw the movie and had similar ones as you.

I couldn't help not being "pulled in" because of the potential the baby would bring to the world.

The humanistic and atheistic view mixed with Hinduism seemed to be peppered throughtout the entire movie making it's point quite clear. The future is bleak at best. One part of the film that they were sucessful in portraying serious darkness is when the "peaceful" suicide drug looked almost positive? The epitome of utter hopelessness. Which is the whole point I guess.

I definately didn't dislike the movie. Clive Owen was magnificent (as usual) and it was an edge of your seat movie which I love.

Ben Witherington said...

Yes Rhonda you are so right about Quietus, the euthanasia drug, and the religious mishmash in the movie, for instance the scene with the repenters who are seen as 'no hopers'. But then the hope offered has to do with the humanistic belief that human perseverance and determination to live will overcome all odds. A very shallow faith and hope indeed.


brad said...

i walked out of the theater just drilled with the taste of hope and restoration that came from new life. even today i am still struck by how well this movie was written. i thought it wonderfully climaxed with the birth of the first child in decades. it was a scene i will not soon forget.

i was particularly intrigued by the portrayal of hope and redemption coming not from a political regime of any sort, but from a simple natural act of giving birth.

loved this flick. it reminds me of what movies are supposed to be. deeply and mythically moving.