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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Terrorism > Science Fiction > Politics > Children Of Men (HD-DVD/DVD Combo + DVD-Video)

Children Of Men (HD-DVD/DVD Combo + DVD-Video)


Picture: B+/B-     Sound: B+/B-     Extras: C+     Film: B



Reflecting the downside of international politics, government and world problems that are more manmade than ever, 2006 saw the release of two films about the police state and decline of first-world civilization that were impressive and even remarkable.  In both, England is the country in question, holding on (or so it seems) as the world falls into chaos and that chaos is used as an excuse to systematically eliminate human rights and destroy the world.


The first of these films was the amazing V For Vendetta (see our HD-DVD review elsewhere on this site) and then came Alfonso Cuaron’s Children Of Men, based on the book by P.D. James.  This time, terrorism is a common thing in 2027 England, as we discover from the first scene with Theo (Clive Owen in an underrated performance) who narrowly avoids death on the day of the sad news that the youngest person in the world was murdered.  He was a young adult.


The problem is that “for some strange reason” women can no longer conceive children and childbirth is a thing of the past.  Cloning is never noted in the film, but is not the same thing.  Theo is about to discover that he has not been cynical enough when he is abducted and meets up with his ex Julian (Julianne Moore) when she turns out to be part of the group trying to bring back biological reproduction.  Though never explicitly stated, it looks like those in power with the ability to do so killed the possibility in the name of controlling human freedom and herding people like animals.  If it was just merely a biological issue, this would be a much different film.  The connection to sexual freedom is also there but never addressed.


That freedom is further highlighted by an aging hippie type played by Michael Caine, who is one of the last holdouts against a gutted culture that is slowly creeping into his living space.  Another great Caine performance, even his character knows he is a 20th Century counterculture guy who is a friend of Theo and tried to help him.  This is a factor when Theo starts to help the resistance hoping their plan and network are not a lie or dream but goes since things are so grim.  Then something happens that could change everything.


Cuaron co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with four other writers, making this one of the rare cases where that did not hurt the film.  Performances are great all around, including Pam Ferris (TV’s Rosemary & Thyme) as Miriam, who becomes an almost darkly humorous counterpoint to the madness in her common-sense reactions to the horror they are all living with, even though she is not trying to be funny, is not a caricature or intentionally funny, but so human that they have not claimed her soul yet either.


In past Science Fiction films, the possibility of birth has either became tainted (Demon Seed, It’s Alive), an ironic joke in a world with few people (Omega Man), exploited by extremists (the underdone A Handmaid’s Tale) or not possible because of a apocalyptic holocaust that is nuclear or pollution-based (the underrated Memoirs Of A Survivor, which bears the most resemblance to this film) has been a constant issue in the genre (often including Horror by no coincidence) since Mary Shelley published Frankenstein.


It is no surprise than that this film is also based on a work by a woman like Shelley’s classic of Doris Lessing in the case of Memoirs, P. D. James is actually best-known as a writer of Mystery fiction and is one of the most successful of her generation and recent waves of the genre in print.  The mystery elements are no surprise here and many will go over the head of the viewer seeing this for the first time, but repeat viewing will reveal the nuances beyond the first experience.  Cuaron is remarkably sensitive to the material and that is why it got so much buzz during awards season, but like the rather neglected V For Vendetta did not have the broad commercial success it deserved.


Both will only gain in respect and appreciation as viewers see them and get what they are really about, especially as the current Bush II era ebbs, though the U.S. is hardly a player in either film as it has disintegrated into another Civil War.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 image on the HD-DVD side is very solid, despite the unnatural toning-down of colors with good detail and a return to uninterrupted shots by Cuaron and Emmanuel Lubezki, A.S.C., (Meet Joe Black, Ali) that are more involving and cinematic than the MTV quick-cutting that only shows ignorance and lack of talent on the part of the filmmakers who overuse them.  The anamorphically enhanced version on the DVD side and stand alone DVD-Video are almost totally the same in this case and looks good for DVD, but not like the HD or a 35mm print of the film.


The Dolby Digital Plus on the HD side of the Combo disc is nice and articulate, though I still wished it was DTS, but this is a dialogue-based film with good ambient sound in the surrounds, a good John Tavener score and interesting sound design to match the visuals.  It just receives the score it got.


Extras in all versions include a featurette on the futuristic design, Owen/Moore interviews on their characters, Slavoj Zizek on the film, Under Attack featurette involving a key scene, Possibility Of Hope documentary on the film, a piece on creating the childbirth in the film and deleted scenes that all work nicely and sadly were not in the final film.


The HD adds the nice U Control navigation feature that offers picture in picture interviews and the full details of the one star of the film least acknowledged but key in telling us about the decline of the society: its advertisements.  The DVD Widescreen version is fine, but the HD-DVD Combo is the way to go for everyone and the version we recommend.


V For Vendetta (HD-DVD)




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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