Here's a few reasons why it's brilliant.....
1. The Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. There is not a wasted shot in this entire movie. It's often easy to make beautiful vistas look beautiful, but here Lubezki has to engage us in a movie that is ugly both emotionally and physically. There are several bravura sequences: The opening sequence, the car chase that ends in a killing, and the entrance into the immigration camp. In several of these sequences, Lubezki tells the whole story in a single shot. Check out the clip below to see what a master he is.
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2. Clive Owen. There are many modern actors who work at being chameleons, slipping into roles with new accents and new tricks for each role. Clive Owen strikes me as more of a classic Hollywood actor. He plays a similar archetype in the movies, a world-weary observer of those around him (Closer, Gosford Park). Within each role though, he finds new depths. I think Children of Men is perhaps his best performance, showing a man who has built up a shell and how that shell is gently cracked.
3. The Uncompromised Vision. I can't imagine that director Alfanso Cuaron wasn't pressured to make this story more palatable to Hollywood audiences. I'm glad he stuck to his guns. There are several instances where major characters disappear from the story, and these lend a shocking power to the movie. He also has the strength to throw in just enough gallows humor to keep the viewer from being entirely overwhelmed.
4. The Political/Religious Allegory. I'm not always one for allegories in movies, since they can too often just be obvious or devoid of any true meaning. Here's one who's allegory works on many levels. Politically, the world depicted in Children of Men is realistic enough that I can imagine it happening if world events take a certain turn. The immigrant-bashing, homeland security, and general hopelessness seem all to real, yet you're not hit over the head with it.
I tend to like Christian allegories even less in movies. If I watch "The Green Mile" and notice that Michael Clarke Duncan's character is a Christ figure, does that illuminate anything about either the movie or faith to me? No. In Children of Men, I truly connected with its central premise of the first "child" being born into a viscous world in need of hope. Watching the character of Kee have a child in a dingy abandoned apartment, I couldn't help but think how sanitized the Christmas story has become. Children of Movie is the rare movie that actually made me think about religious ideas in a new and complex way.
I'm so glad I took the chance to watch this movie again. Do any of my readers have similar stories? Movies you liked the first time but grew into your favorites?