Children of Men


Children of Men
Children of Men

Theatrical poster showing Clive Owen
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Produced by Marc Abraham
Brian Grazer
Jeffrey Katzenberg
Eric Newman
Iain Smith
Hilary Shor
Tony Smith
Ron Howard
Thomas Bliss
Armyan Bernstein
Jake Eberts
Screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón
Timothy J. Sexton
David Arata
Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby
Clive Owen (uncredited)[1]
Based on The Children of Men by
P. D. James
Starring Clive Owen
Julianne Moore
Michael Caine
Claire-Hope Ashitey
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Pam Ferris
Danny Huston
Music by John Tavener
Christophe Beck
Jeff Danna
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Editing by Alfonso Cuarón
Alex Rodríguez
Studio Strike Entertainment
Relativity Media
Hit and Run Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 25, 2006
Running time 105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £37 million
(US$76 million)[2]
Box office $69,959,751

Children of Men is a 2006 American-British science fiction film loosely adapted from P. D. James's 1992 novel The Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. In 2027, two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse. Illegal immigrants seek sanctuary in England, where the last functioning government imposes oppressive immigration laws on refugees. Clive Owen plays civil servant Theo Faron, who must help a pregnant West African refugee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) escape the chaos. Children of Men also stars Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Pam Ferris, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The film was released on September 22, 2006 in the UK and on December 25 in the US, with critics noting the relationship between the Christmas opening and the film's themes of hope, redemption and faith. Children of Men received positive reviews and was recognised for its achievements in screenwriting, cinematography, art direction and innovative single-shot action sequences. The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing at the 79th Academy Awards. It won two British Academy Film Awards and received the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.

Contents

Plot

The year is 2027 and the youngest person in the world, 18-year-old "Baby" Diego, has just been stabbed to death. Worldwide infertility of unknown causes has led to social unrest, violence, chaos, and the collapse of society. The United Kingdom, which still has a government, is deluged by asylum seekers. In response, it has become a militarised police state as British forces round up and detain immigrants. Kidnapped by an immigrant rights group known as "The Fishes," former activist turned cynical bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is surprised to see its leader is his estranged wife Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore). The couple parted ways after their son died from a flu pandemic in 2008. Julian offers Theo money to acquire transit papers for a young female refugee named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), which Theo obtains from his cousin Nigel (Danny Huston), a government minister. However, the papers require the bearer to be accompanied, so Theo agrees to escort Kee in exchange for more money. Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Fishes member, drives Theo, Kee, Julian, and Miriam (Pam Ferris), a midwife, towards the coast to a boat. They are ambushed by an armed gang and Julian is fatally shot. Two police officers stop their car, but Luke kills them, and the group escapes to a safe house.

Kee reveals to Theo that she is pregnant, and that Julian told her that she should trust only him. Julian had intended to hand Kee over to the "Human Project", a group of scientists dedicated to curing infertility, supposedly based in the Azores. However, Luke proposes keeping Kee in England, and she agrees to stay. Later that night, Theo awakens and eavesdrops on a meeting of Luke and other members. He discovers that Julian's death was orchestrated by the Fishes so they could use Kee's baby as a tool to support the coming revolution. Theo wakes Kee and Miriam and they steal a car, escaping to the secluded hideaway of aging hippie Jasper Palmer (Michael Caine), a former political cartoonist and Theo's friend. A plan is formulated to board the Human Project ship Tomorrow which will arrive offshore from the Bexhill refugee camp. Jasper proposes getting Syd (Peter Mullan), a camp guard, to smuggle them in. The Fishes trail the group to Jasper's hideout, but Theo, Miriam, and Kee get away. Jasper stays behind to try to buy them some time. Before the Fishes arrive, he gives the government-issued suicide drug Quietus to his catatonic wife. Jasper is gunned down by the Fishes in cold blood, horrifying Theo, who witnesses his murder before escaping with Miriam and Kee.

Later, they meet Syd, who transports them to Bexhill as fake prisoners. When Kee begins having contractions on a bus, Miriam distracts a suspicious guard with religious mania, and is taken away. Theo and Kee are taken to the camp, where conditions are appalling, chaotic, and violent. They meet Marichka (Oana Pellea), who provides a room where Kee gives birth to a girl. The next day, Syd locates Theo and Kee, having connected them with the police murders, and threatens to turn them in for a reward. He also informs them that a full-scale war between the refugees, including the Fishes, and the army has begun. The group beat off Syd and escape. Amidst the violent clash between refugees and British troops, the Fishes capture Kee. Theo tracks Kee and her baby to an apartment building which is under heavy fire from the military. The combatants stop fighting momentarily, awed by the presence of a baby, enabling Theo, Kee, and the baby to escape.

Marichka leads them to a boat in a sewer, but refuses to join them. As Theo rows away, he reveals to Kee that he was shot. They then witness a full-scale aerial bombing of Bexhill by the Royal Air Force, and Kee tells Theo she will name her baby Dylan after Theo's dead son. Theo loses consciousness just as the boat Tomorrow approaches through a thick fog.

Cast

  • Clive Owen as Theo Faron, a former activist who was devastated when his child died during a flu pandemic.[3] Theo is the "archetypal everyman" who unwillingly becomes a saviour.[4][5] Cast in April 2005,[6] Owen spent several weeks collaborating with Cuarón and Sexton about his role. Impressed by Owen's creative insights, Cuarón and Sexton brought him on board as a writer.[7] Back-story developing Theo's character was removed during the editing process: a scene showing Theo stealing petrol vouchers from work was cut to emphasise visual over verbal information. "Clive was a big help," Cuarón told Variety. "I would send a group of scenes to him, and then I would hear his feedback and instincts."[8]
  • Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor. For Julian, Cuarón wanted an actor who had the "credibility of leadership, intelligence, [and] independence".[7] Moore was cast in June 2005.[9] "She is just so much fun to work with," Cuarón told Cinematical. "She is just pulling the rug out from under your feet all the time. You don't know where to stand, because she is going to make fun of you."[7]
  • Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer. Caine based Jasper on his experiences with friend John Lennon;[7] it was the first time he had portrayed a character who would pass wind or smoke cannabis.[10] Cuarón explains, "Once he had the clothes and so on and stepped in front of the mirror to look at himself, his body language started changing. Michael loved it. He believed he was this guy".[10] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune notices an apparent homage to Schwartz (Mort Mills) in Orson Welles' film noir, Touch of Evil (1958). Jasper calls Theo "amigo" — just as Schwartz referred to Ramon Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston).[11] Jasper's cartoons, seen in his house, were provided by Steve Bell.
  • Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee, a character who did not appear in the book. The role of an African illegal immigrant was written into the film, based on Cuarón's opinion of the recent single-origin hypothesis of human origins and the status of dispossessed people:[12] "The fact that this child will be the child of an African woman has to do with the fact that humanity started in Africa. We're putting the future of humanity in the hands of the dispossessed and creating a new humanity to spring out of that."[13]
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke
  • Pam Ferris as Miriam
  • Peter Mullan as Syd
  • Charlie Hunnam as Patric
  • Danny Huston as Nigel, Theo's cousin and a high ranking government official. Nigel runs a Ministry of Arts programme "Ark of the Arts", which "rescues" works of art such as Michelangelo's David, Pablo Picasso's Guernica and Banksy's British Cops Kissing.
  • Oana Pellea as Marichka
  • Paul Sharma as Ian
  • Jacek Koman as Tomasz
  • Miriam Karlin as the elderly German grandmother singing whilst caged. This was Karlin's final film role; she died in 2011.

Themes

Hope

Children of Men explores the themes of hope and faith[14] in the face of overwhelming futility and despair.[15][16] The film's source, the novel The Children of Men by P. D. James, describes what happens when society is unable to reproduce, using male infertility to explain this problem.[17][18] In the novel, it is made clear that hope depends on future generations. James writes, "It was reasonable to struggle, to suffer, perhaps even to die, for a more just, a more compassionate society, but not in a world with no future where, all too soon, the very words 'justice,' 'compassion,' 'society,’ 'struggle,' 'evil,' would be unheard echoes on an empty air."[19]

The film switches the infertility from male to female[16] but never explains its cause: environmental destruction and divine punishment are considered.[20] This unanswered question (and others in the film) have been attributed to Cuarón's dislike for expository film: "There's a kind of cinema I detest, which is a cinema that is about exposition and explanations.... It's become now what I call a medium for lazy readers.... Cinema is a hostage of narrative. And I'm very good at narrative as a hostage of cinema."[21] Cuaron's disdain for back-story and exposition led him to use the concept of female infertility as a "metaphor for the fading sense of hope".[16] The "almost mythical" Human Project is turned into a "metaphor for the possibility of the evolution of the human spirit, the evolution of human understanding."[22] Without dictating how the audience should feel by the end of the film, Cuarón encourages viewers to come to their own conclusions about the sense of hope depicted in the final scenes: "We wanted the end to be a glimpse of a possibility of hope, for the audience to invest their own sense of hope into that ending. So if you're a hopeful person you'll see a lot of hope, and if you're a bleak person you'll see a complete hopelessness at the end."[23]

Contemporary references

Children of Men takes an unconventional approach to the modern action film, using documentary, newsreel style to convey what critic Michael Joshua Rowin describes as "stunning verisimilitude within its mise-en-scène." For Rowin, the film alludes to and resonates with the catastrophic destruction and symbolism of the September 11, 2001 attacks.[24]

Rowin, along with film critics Jason Guerrasio and Ethan Alter, observe the film's underlying touchstone of immigration; Alter notes that the film "makes a potent case against the anti-immigrant sentiment" popular in modern societies like the United Kingdom and the United States, with Guerrasio describing the film as "a complex meditation on the politics of today".[23][25]

For Alter and other critics, the structural support and impetus for the contemporary references rests upon the visual nature of the film's exposition, occurring in the form of imagery as opposed to conventional dialogue.[25] Visually, the refugee camps in the film intentionally evoke Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and The Maze.[22] Other popular images appear, such as a sign over the refugee camp reading "Homeland Security".[26] The similarity between the hellish, cinéma vérité stylized battle scenes of the film and current news and documentary coverage of the Iraq War, is noted by film critic Manohla Dargis, describing Cuarón's fictional landscapes as "war zones of extraordinary plausibility".[27]

In the film, refugees are "hunted down like cockroaches," rounded up and put into cages and camps, and even shot, leading film critics like Chris Smith and Claudia Puig to observe symbolic "overtones" and images of the Holocaust.[15][28] This theme is reinforced in the scene where an elderly refugee woman speaking German is seen detained in a cage,[29] and in the scene where British Homeland Security strips and beats illegal immigrants; a song by The Libertines, "Arbeit Macht Frei", plays in the background.[30] "The visual allusions to the Nazi roundups are unnerving," writes Richard A. Blake. "It shows what people can become when the government orchestrates their fears for its own advantage."[31]

Cuarón explains how he uses this imagery to propagate the theme by cross-referencing fictional and futuristic events with real, contemporary, or historical incidents and beliefs:

They exit the Russian apartments, and the next shot you see is this woman wailing, holding the body of her son in her arms. This was a reference to a real photograph of a woman holding the body of her son in the Balkans, crying with the corpse of her son. It's very obvious that when the photographer captured that photograph, he was referencing La Pietà, the Michelangelo sculpture of Mary holding the corpse of Jesus. So: We have a reference to something that really happened, in the Balkans, which is itself a reference to the Michelangelo sculpture. At the same time, we use the sculpture of David early on, which is also by Michelangelo, and we have of course the whole reference to the Nativity. And so everything was referencing and cross-referencing, as much as we could.[7]

In the closing credits, the Sanskrit words "Shantih Shantih Shantih" appear as end titles.[32][33] Writer and film critic Laura Eldred of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill observes that Children of Men is "full of tidbits that call out to the educated viewer". During a visit to his house by Theo and Kee, Jasper says "Shanti, shanti, shanti." Eldred notes that the "shanti" used in the film is also found at the end of an Upanishad and in the final line of T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, a work Eldred describes as "devoted to contemplating a world emptied of fertility: a world on its last, teetering legs". However, "shanti" is also a common beginning and ending to all Hindu prayers, and literally means "peace," referencing the invocation of divine intervention and rebirth through an end to violence.[34]

Religion

Like Virgil's Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the crux of the journey in Children of Men lies in what is uncovered along the path rather than the terminus itself.[31] Theo's heroic journey to the south coast mirrors his personal quest for "self-awareness",[25] a journey that takes Theo from "despair to hope".[35]

According to Cuarón, the title of P. D. James' book (The Children of Men) is a Catholic allegory derived from a passage of scripture in the Bible.[36] (Psalm 90 (89):3 of the KJV: "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.") James refers to her story as a "Christian fable"[17] while Cuarón describes it as "almost like a look at Christianity": "I didn't want to shy away from the spiritual archetypes," Cuarón told Filmmaker Magazine. "But I wasn't interested in dealing with dogma."[23]

Ms. James's nativity story is, in Mr. Cuarón's version, set against the image of a prisoner in an orange smock with a black bag on his head, arms stretched out as if on a cross.

Manohla Dargis, [37]

This divergence from the original was criticised by some, including Anthony Sacramone of First Things, who called the film "an act of vandalism", noting the irony of how Cuarón had removed religion from P.D. James' fable, in which morally sterile nihilism is overcome by Christianity.[38]

The film has been noted for its use of Christian symbolism; for example, British terrorists named "Fishes" protect the rights of refugees.[39] Opening on Christmas Day in the United States, critics compared the characters of Theo and Kee with Joseph and Mary,[40] calling the film a "modern-day Nativity story".[41] Kee's pregnancy is revealed to Theo in a barn, alluding to the manger of the Nativity scene, when Theo asks Kee who the father of the baby is she jokingly states she is a virgin, and when other characters discover Kee and her baby, they respond with "Jesus Christ" or the sign of the cross.[42] Also Gabriel Archangel (among others divinities) is invoked in the bus scene; and the fact that an Egyptian woman helps them is a reference to the escape to Egypt.

To highlight these spiritual themes, Cuarón commissioned a 15-minute piece by British composer John Tavener, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church whose work resonates with the themes of "motherhood, birth, rebirth, and redemption in the eyes of God." Calling his score a "musical and spiritual reaction to Alfonso's film", snippets of Tavener's "Fragments of a Prayer" contain lyrics in Latin, German and Sanskrit sung by a mezzo-soprano. Words like "mata" (mother), "pahi mam" (protect me), "avatara" (saviour), and "alleluia" appear throughout the film.[43][44]

Production

The adaptation of the P. D. James novel was originally written by Paul Chart, and later rewritten by Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby. Developed by producers Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Hilary Shor and Tony Smith, Beacon Pictures brought director Alfonso Cuarón on board in 2001.[45] Cuarón and screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton began rewriting the script after the director completed Y tu mamá también. Afraid he would "start second guessing things"[10] Cuarón chose not to read P. D. James' novel, opting to have Sexton read the book while Cuarón himself read an abridged version.[7][23] Cuarón did not immediately begin production, instead directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. During this period, David Arata rewrote the screenplay and after some back and forth with the director, delivered the draft which secured Clive Owen and sent the film into preproduction. The director's work experience in the United Kingdom exposed him to the "social dynamics of the British psyche", giving him insight into the depiction of "British reality".[46] Cuarón used the film The Battle of Algiers as a model for social reconstruction in preparation for production, presenting the film to Clive Owen as an example of his vision for Children of Men. In order to create a philosophical and social framework for the film, the director read literature by Slavoj Žižek, as well as similar works.[47] The film Sunrise was also influential.[16]

Location

A Clockwork Orange helped contribute to the futuristic, yet battered patina of 2027 London.[16] Children of Men was the second film Cuarón made in London, with the director portraying the city as a character itself, shooting single, wide shots of the city.[48] While Cuarón was preparing the film, the London bombings occurred, but the director never considered moving the production. "It would have been impossible to shoot anywhere but London, because of the very obvious way the locations were incorporated into the film," Cuarón told Variety. "For example, the shot of Fleet Street looking towards St. Paul's would have been impossible to shoot anywhere else."[48] Due to these circumstances, the opening terrorist attack scene on Fleet Street was shot one-and-a-half months after the London bombing.[47]

Cuarón chose to shoot some scenes in east London, a location he considered "a place without glamour". The set locations were dressed to make them appear even more run-down; Cuarón says he told the crew "'Let's make it more Mexican'. In other words, we'd look at a location and then say: yes, but in Mexico there would be this and this. It was about making the place look run-down. It was about poverty."[47] He also made use of London's most popular sites, shooting in locations like Trafalgar Square and Battersea Power Station. The power station scene (whose conversion into an art archive is a reference to the Tate Modern), has been compared to Antonioni's Red Desert.[49] Cuarón added a pig balloon to the scene as homage to Pink Floyd's Animals.[50] Other art works visible in this scene include Michelangelo's David,[31] Picasso's Guernica,[51] and Banksy's British Cops Kissing.[29] London visual effects companies Double Negative and Framestore worked directly with Cuarón from script to post production, developing effects and creating "environments and shots that wouldn't otherwise be possible".[48]

Style and design

"In most sci-fi epics, special effects substitute for story. Here they seamlessly advance it," observes Colin Covert of Star Tribune.[52] Billboards were designed to balance a contemporary and futuristic appearance as well as easily visualizing what else was occurring in the rest of the world at the time, and cars were made to resemble modern ones at first glance, although a closer look made them seem unfamiliar.[53] Cuarón informed the art department that the film was the "anti-Blade Runner",[54] rejecting technologically advanced proposals and downplaying the science fiction elements of the 2027 setting. The director focused on images reflecting the contemporary period,[55] choosing to have innovative technology in the film's timeline discontinued by 2014. With the future in mind, Cuarón maintained a steady gaze on the present: "We didn't want to be distracted by the future. We didn't want to transport the audience into another reality."[56]

Single-shot sequences

Children of Men used several lengthy single-shot sequences in which extremely complex actions take place. The longest of these are a shot in which Kee gives birth (199 seconds); an ambush on a country road (247 seconds); and a scene in which Theo is captured by the Fishes, escapes, and runs down a street and through a building in the middle of a raging battle (454 seconds). These sequences were extremely difficult to film, although the effect of continuity is sometimes an illusion, aided by CGI effects.[57]

Cuarón had already experimented with long takes in Great Expectations, Y tu mamá también and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. His style is influenced by the Swiss film Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, a favorite of Cuarón's. Cuarón reminisces: "I was studying cinema when I first saw [Jonah], and interested in the French New Wave. Jonah was so unflashy compared to those films. The camera keeps a certain distance and there are relatively few close-ups. It's elegant and flowing, constantly tracking, but very slowly and not calling attention to itself."[58] Complicated long-takes were already popular among more accomplished film directors in Mexico, where the technique is known as plano secuencia.

The creation of the single-shot sequences was a challenging, time-consuming process that sparked concerns from the studio. It took fourteen days to prepare for the single shot in which Clive Owen's character searches a building under attack, and five hours for every time they wanted to reshoot it. In the middle of one shot, blood splattered onto the lens, and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki convinced the director to leave it in. According to Owen, "Right in the thick of it are me and the camera operator because we're doing this very complicated, very specific dance which, when we come to shoot, we have to make feel completely random."[59]

Cuarón's initial idea for maintaining continuity during the roadside ambush scene was dismissed by production experts as an "impossible shot to do". Fresh from the visual effects-laden Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuarón suggested using computer-generated imagery to film the scene. Lubezki refused to allow it, reminding the director that they had intended to make a film akin to a "raw documentary". Instead, a special camera rig invented by Gary Thieltges of Doggicam Systems was employed, allowing Cuarón to develop the scene as one extended shot.[11][60] A vehicle was modified to enable seats to tilt and lower actors out of the way of the camera, and the windshield was designed to tilt out of the way to allow camera movement in and out through the front windscreen. A crew of four, including the DP and camera operator, rode on the roof.[61]

However, the commonly reported statement that the action scenes are continuous shots[62] is not entirely true. Visual effects supervisor Frazer Churchill explains that the effects team had to "combine several takes to create impossibly long shots", where their job was to "create the illusion of a continuous camera move." Once the team was able to create a "seamless blend", they would move on to the next shot. These techniques were important for three continuous shots: the coffee shop explosion in the opening shot, the car ambush, and the battlefield scene. The coffee shop scene was composed of "two different takes shot over two consecutive days"; the car ambush was shot in "six sections and at four different locations over one week and required five seamless digital transitions"; and the battlefield scene "was captured in five separate takes over two locations". Churchill and the Double Negative team created over 160 of these types of effects for the film.[63] In an interview with Variety, Cuarón acknowledged this nature of the "single-shot" action sequences: "Maybe I'm spilling a big secret, but sometimes it's more than what it looks like. The important thing is how you blend everything and how you keep the perception of a fluid choreography through all of these different pieces."[8]

Tim Webber of VFX house Framestore CFC was responsible for the three-and-a-half minute single take of Kee giving birth, helping to choreograph and create the CG effects of the childbirth.[48] Cuarón had originally intended to use an animatronic baby as Kee's child with the exception of the childbirth scene. In the end, two takes were shot, with the second take concealing Claire-Hope Ashitey's legs, replacing them with prosthetic legs. Cuarón was pleased with the results of the effect, and returned to previous shots of the baby in animatronic form, replacing them with Framestore's computer-generated baby.[57]

Sound

Cuarón uses sound and music to bring the fictional world of social unrest and infertility to life.[64] A creative yet restrained combination of rock, pop, electronic music, hip-hop and classical music replaces the typical film score.[64] The mundane sounds of traffic, barking dogs, and advertisements follow the character of Theo through London, East Sussex and Kent, producing what Los Angeles Times writer Kevin Crust calls an "urban audio rumble".[64] For Crust, the music comments indirectly on the barren world of Children of Men: Deep Purple's version of "Hush" blaring from Jasper's car radio becomes a "sly lullaby for a world without babies" while King Crimson's "The Court of the Crimson King" make a similar allusion with their lyrics, "...three lullabies in an ancient tongue".[64]

Amongst a genre-spanning selection of electronic music, a remix of Aphex Twin's "Omgyjya Switch 7", which includes additional samples of screams not present on the original can be heard during the scene in Jasper's house, where Jasper's "Strawberry Cough" (a potent, strawberry-flavoured blend of marijuana) is being sampled. During a conversation between the two men, Radiohead's "Life in a Glasshouse" plays in the background.

A number of dubstep tracks, most notably Anti-War Dub by Digital Mystikz, as well as tracks by Kode9 & The Space Ape and Pressure are also featured.[65]

For the Bexhill scenes during the film's second half, the director makes use of silence and cacophonous sound effects such as the firing of automatic weapons and loudspeakers directing the movement of "fugees" (illegal immigrants).[64] Here, classical music by George Frideric Handel, Gustav Mahler, and Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima" complements the chaos of the refugee camp.[64] Throughout the film, John Tavener's Fragments of a Prayer is used as a spiritual motif to explain and interpret the story without the use of narrative.[64]

A few times during the film, a loud, ringing tone evocative of tinnitus is heard. This sound generally coincides with the death of a major character (Julian, Jasper) and is referred to by Julian herself, who describes the tones as the last time you'll ever hear that frequency. In this way, then, the loss of the tones is symbolic of the loss of the characters.[66]

Release

Children of Men had its world premiere at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival on 3 September 2006.[67] On 22 September 2006, the film debuted at #1 in the United Kingdom with $2.4 million in 368 screens.[68] It debuted in a limited release of 16 theaters in the United States on 22 December 2006, expanding to more than 1,200 theaters on 5 January 2007.[69] As of 6 February 2008, Children of Men had grossed $69,612,678 worldwide, with $35,552,383 of the revenue generated in the United States.[70]

Critical reception

The film received very positive reviews. According to the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes, Children of Men received a 93% overall approval out of 196 reviews from critics,[71] and on Metacritic, the film has a rating of 84 based on 36 reviews.[72]

Dana Stevens of Slate called it "the herald of another blessed event: the arrival of a great director by the name of Alfonso Cuarón." Stevens hailed the film's extended car chase and battle scenes as "two of the most virtuoso single-shot chase sequences I've ever seen."[41] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film a "superbly directed political thriller", raining accolades on the long chase scenes.[27] "Easily one of the best films of the year" said Ethan Alter of Film Journal International, with scenes that "dazzle you with their technical complexity and visual virtuosity."[25] Jonathan Romney of The Independent praised the accuracy of Cuarón's portrait of the United Kingdom, but he criticised some of the film's futuristic scenes as "run-of-the-mill future fantasy."[29] Film Comment's Critics' Poll of the best films of 2006 ranked the film #19 while the 2006 Readers' Poll ranked it #2.[73] On their list of the best movies of 2006, The A.V. Club, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate and The Washington Post placed the film at number-one.[74] Entertainment Weekly ranked the film seventh on its end-of-the-decade, top ten list, saying, "Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian 2006 film reminded us that adrenaline-juicing action sequences can work best when the future looks just as grimy as today."[75]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone ranked this #2 on his list of best films of the decade, writing:

"I thought director Alfonso Cuarón's film of P.D. James' futuristic political-fable novel was good when it opened in 2006. After repeated viewings, I know Children of Men is indisputably great... No movie this decade was more redolent of sorrowful beauty and exhilarating action. You don't just watch the car ambush scene (pure camera wizardry) — you live inside it. That's Cuarón's magic: He makes you believe."[76]

According to Metacritic's analysis of the most often and notably noted films on the best-of-the-decade lists, Children of Men is considered the eleventh-greatest film of the 2000s.

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists as one of the best films of 2006:[74]

General top ten

Awards

P. D. James, who was reported to be pleased with the film,[77] and the screenwriters of Children of Men were awarded the 19th annual USC Scripter Award for the screen adaptation of the novel; Howard Rodman, chair of the USC School of Cinematic Arts Writing Division, described the book-to-screen adaptation as "writing and screen writing of the highest order.", although Gerschatt, writing in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, noted that the screenplay bore very little resemblance to the novel, in the gender of the baby, and the character who was pregnant (Julian, in the novel) and the death of Theo, who in fact, did not die in the novel.[78] The film was also nominated in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.

Children of Men also obtained Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) and Best Film Editing (Alfonso Cuarón and Alex Rodríguez).[79] The British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated Children of Men for Best Visual Effects and honored the film with awards for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design at the 60th British Academy Film Awards. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won the feature film award for Best Cinematography at the 21st American Society of Cinematographers Awards. The Australian Cinematographers Society also awarded Lubezki the 2007 International Award for Cinematography for Children of Men.[80]

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films bestowed the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film on Children of Men, and it received the nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention.[81]

Children of Men was nominated for AFI's Top 10 Science Fiction Films list.[82]

Home media

The HD DVD and DVD were released in Europe on 15 January 2007[83] and in the United States on 27 March 2007. Extras include a half-hour documentary by director Alfonso Cuarón entitled "The Possibility of Hope". The documentary explores the intersection between the film's themes and reality with a critical analysis by eminent scholars: the Slovenian sociologist and philosopher Slavoj Žižek, anti-globalization activist Naomi Klein, environmentalist futurist James Lovelock, sociologist Saskia Sassen, human geographer Fabrizio Eva, cultural theorist Tzvetan Todorov, and philosopher and economist John N. Gray; "Under Attack" features a demonstration of the innovative techniques required for the car chase and battle scenes; Clive Owen and Julianne Moore discuss their characters in "Theo & Julian"; "Futuristic Design" opens the door on the production design and look of the film; "Visual Effects" shows how the digital baby was created. Deleted scenes are included.[84] The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the United States on 26 May 2009.[85]

References

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