Monday, April 09, 2007

Movie Log: Children of Men

So The Wife and I saw Children of Men on Friday night. The short version: it's a very impressive movie, but it has huge holes as science fiction and as a plan old story.

I'll grant "Britain stands alone" as premise (or, more likely, as propaganda), and even wave off the fact that, after twenty years, nobody in the world seems to have any idea why no children have been born. (I'll also note that this is set in a slightly alternate world where no human ova -- fertilized or not -- have been successfully kept alive outside a human body.) Swallow, swallow, swallow. I'm doing my best: I'm trying to swallow everything this movie throws at me.

Massive numbers of refugees, kept in cages at tube stations? (OK, I don't get it, but swallow again.) Said refugees gathered up onto buses to go to Heinlein-esque Coventries, unless they're pulled off those buses to be put back into cages at different tube stations? I'll accept random brutality, and the general All Police Are Fascist Bastards feeling, but the system needs to make a little sense. Two sets of ubercompetent violence experts who just can't quite manage to get things done in the end? Minor characters who disappear and reappear to fit plot needs? ("Oh, hi! You were crouching in that arch, waiting for me, the whole time? As if this was our plan, even though we can't communicate? Great!") Sorry, now I'm choking.

I'm being too negative, right? Let's talk about this as a movie -- those two amazing long shots (one near the middle of the movie, one almost at the end), when a single camera follows the action, without cuts, for a good five minutes one time and probably at least ten the second time. Those are mesmerizing once you realize what's happening. And all of the performances are good; the script is clean and brutal, with a number of excellent, cutting lines ("Show Syd the fugee face. Sad fugee face."), and only one or two moments of windy pontificating (the speech about "the sound of the playgrounds fading"); and it's generally a great looking movie (yes, it's another "Twenty years from now, it will be next Tuesday" future, but they've got a worldwide societal collapse to explain that).

But all that can't hide the fact that Children of Men is shamelessly manipulative and silly, with plot points happening precisely and very conveniently to hit the screenwriter's Big Messages. And, even then, they chickened out on the ending -- there's a perfect moment of existential despair that would have been just the right ending, but then the movie goes on a bit longer.

All in all, it's well worth seeing as a movie, but turn off the SF-reading side of your brain when you do (to save it the inevitable damage from rough handling). And it would be a travesty if this wins the Hugo.

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