Children of Men [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (17th May 2009).
The Film

I recall thinking upon announcement that Alfonso Cuarón was an odd choice for directing a "Harry Potter" movie, especially coming off of the critically hailed and very adult themed "Y Tu Mamá También" (2001). If there was ever a case of hiring a director against type then this is a fairly good example. The gamble paid off and Cuarón delivered a fairly decent film, it was well reviewed and added $789,458,727 (World-wide box office) to the franchise's coffers. After such a success a filmmaker can virtually write their own checks, and for Cuarón it was a trip into the dark depths of author P.D. James' "Children of Men", a futuristic tale of hope set amid a backdrop of economic and political dismay. The film was unrolled slowly gathering praise as it made its way through the often murky and treacherous waters of 'Award Season'. "Children of Men" picked up two BAFTA awards (cinematography and production design) and was also nominated for three Oscars (adapted screenplay, cinematography and editing) although possibly overlooked for it's achievement in directing and the lack of a best picture nomination was also disappointing, however in the year of "The Departed" (2006), "Letters From Iwo Jima" (2006), "The Queen" (2006), "Babel" (2006) and "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006) one can see the competition was stiff. Regardless of this "Children of Men" remains one of 2006's best films and certainly delivers a powerful and evocative message of where our society is going if we continue to ignore such things as environmental issues and world division among others. Granted it's a sci-fi perspective which shows a worst case scenario for mankind but then again global warming was a non-issue a decade ago and now we could be looking at a catastrophic events (such as stronger and fiercer storms, the flooding of major land masses, etc.) caused by the continuous melting of the polar icecaps, and that is not science fiction. This is also a discussion for another day...now onto the film...

"Children of Men" takes us to a futuristic London, the year is 2027 and humankind is on the verge of extinction. There hasn't been a human birth in 18 years, the world's youngest person was killed and society is in a state of anarchy and in a state of moral unrest. Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is drawn into a mission by a underground band of rebels called "The Fishes" by his former wife Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore). He must protect and escort a pregnant woman Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the first pregnant woman in 18 years across England to a safe haven called 'The Human Project'. Along the way Theo is helped by friend Jasper Palmer (Michael Caine) while pursued by Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his group. The future of mankind is in Theo's hands as he navigates a dangerous and horrifically dark existence in effort to bring light to humanity again.

Cuarón has managed to create a complex film both in its themes and also in its visual style. Although set in the future there is something very relatable and recognizable about it, the filmmaker's chose not to focus on the clean white utopian future seen in many other films but instead ground it in some sort of reality. Furthermore I was impressed with the overall design of the film which is very gritty the rundown nature of this crumbling society is a rather remarkable filmic achievement. On a technical level the film is brilliantly executed. This also takes into account the photography that utilizes long takes with very few cuts in the overall scenes, this style is very distinctly a device used by Cuarón which enables the viewer to enter this desperate and crumbling world they have created. Camera technique is used quite effectively to place you into the action and the 360 degree camera shot inside the car is a perfect example of this artistry.

One can sit down and talk about these achievements all day as there will be something new to discover in each frame, the attention to detail is simply staggering but the performances are equally powerful especially Clive Owen in arguably his most brilliant performance of his career, starting of the film as a veritable zombie and ending up as the most unlikely anti-hero. He manages to evoke a sense of the every-man thrown into extraordinary situations but never over playing. Julianne Moore is in the film for much less time and manages to deliver a fine turn as the political activist, Julian. She very rarely stumbles in her choices and can always be counted on to bring her 'A' game to the table and in this film it's no exception. Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and of course Clare-Hope Ashitey add a further dimension to this already impressive cast and also manage to steal many scenes while they're at it.

"Children of Men" works on many different levels but ultimately it's a story of hope amid a drastically crumbling and bleak existence, let's hope the future has something better in store for us but in the mean time check this film out as Cuarón and crew have created something quite special.

Video

Universal delivers this film on Blu-ray in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been presented in it's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, previously released on the now deleted HD DVD format this image is ported over with its VC-1 compression. The film's overall look is very bleak and tends to lean towards the grey tones often and thus the film's production design and overall look dictated the style of photography. This HD image accuratley represents the stripped down color pallette very well, the film's gritty nature is captured incredibly well with detail unsurpassed, texture and depth also feature prominently. Skin tones look good, blacks are deep and grain is present adding to the overall aesthetic. Sharpness is consistent and there were no specks, dirt or compression related issues that I could see. Overall this HD image is terrific.

Audio

Universal has included six audio tracks on this disc in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed in 24-bit/48kHz as well as DTS 5.1 surround tracks in Castilian Spanish, French, German, Italian and Spanish. For the purpose of the reivew I chose to view the film with its English DTS-HD audio. This audio is a definite step-up from the standard Digital Digital 5.1 track of the DVD, the HD sound seems to have more depth and range. The dialouge is clear and distortion free, ambient sounds mixed into the film capture the landscape perfectly, surround effects which range from the aggressive and impacting with machine gun fire and explosions through to enviornmental sounds add to the overall aural experience. The film's mix is active and immersive in every way possible, this is a great audio track pure and simple.
Optional subtitles are included in French, Italian, German, Castilian Spanish, L.A. Spanish, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Mandarin and Greek.

Extras

Universal Pictures has included a few extras for this release, they include a series of deleted scenes, six featurettes plus some "U-Control" interactive features. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a reel of deleted scenes that runs for 2 minutes 23 seconds, in them Theo gives a beggar a cigarette on the street, Theo's landlord hassles him about being late on his rent, and Nigel takes Theo through some of the artwork the Ministry had saved.

Next up is "The Possibility of Hope" a featurette that runs for 27 minutes 15 seconds, this is a clip that examines how the themes of the film relate to modern day society. Philosopher's and scholars provide their thoughts on the reality of the film and how it's presented, utopianism as well as the growing individual threat of globalization, human mobility and the inequality of opportunity and it's effect on the world as we know it. This clip is essentially an intelligent conversation based on the themes of the film and is certainly worth a look.

Next is "Children of Men" comments by Slavoj Zizek, a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 45 seconds. Philosopher Zizek talks about the background issues of the film such as the oppressive nature of the surroundings and the narrative structural similarities with this film and "Y Tu Mamá También" both including characters that guide their own fate. He comments on how the film portrays "ideological despair of late capitalism of a society without a history" quite well and focuses on issues of immigration, the character of Jasper and minor difference between the film and the book.

"Under Attack" is a featurette that runs for 7 minutes 36 seconds and takes a closer look at the filmmaker's unique approach to filming the action onscreen using long fluid takes with as little cuts as possible. This has to do primarily with two key scenes that we get a closer look at the process of achieving those shots, the scenes are the interior of the car 360 degree shot and the scene at the start with the cafe explosion in London.

"Theo & Julian" is a featurette that runs for 4 minutes 41 seconds, this takes a look at the two main characters in the film and on collaborating with each other. It also delves into the familiarity of the characters, making them more accessible and relatable to the audiences as well as their character journeys and challenges faced in the film. There is a fair amount of back patting as well with each cast member informing us how great it was working with each other and the director.

The following featurette is entitled "Futuristic Design" and runs for 8 minutes 38 seconds, This takes a look at the detailed production design. The crew discusses the look, tone and feel of how the future is portrayed in the film. Cuarón was focused on keeping much of the film grounded in a sort of reality that was familiar to the audience. So in effect it's not the typical alien sterilized vision of the future but rather a disintegrating version. The clip also takes a brief look at the costume design and the creation of the newspapers, the development on the shanty town and the Art Ministry.

The final featurette included on this disc is entitled "Visual Effects: Creating the Baby" which runs for 3 minutes 7 seconds. This is a progressive look at the layered process of creating the visual effects for the birthing scene. This features some split-screen comparisons for how the scene was pieced together with seamless computer effects.

There are some Blu-ray exclusive extras by way of "U-control extras" for profile 1.1 players or greater and include:

- "Behind- the-Scenes" picture-in-picture video commentary features additional behind-the-scenes footage from the production of the film which you can view as you watch the film.
- "Information sheets" pop-up features some trivia that pops-up as you view the film.
- "Advertising" view-screens explores the various futuristic ads seen throughout the film.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.