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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Release of 'Children' fails to live up to film

"Children of Men" was a film that was criminally overlooked upon its original release, but, like the classic "Blade Runner" that it has been compared to, it's not inconceivable that the film's reputation will expand following its home release.

The film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (who also helmed "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien") is about a future in which women are no longer able to bear children.

Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is a clerical worker who becomes embroiled in a scandal involving a young girl named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who is discovered carrying a baby. Faron must help Kee escape to the safety of an off-shore "Human Project," but they are blocked by the government and other forces from all sides.

"Children of Men" is a complex picture, though its plotting essentially boils down to a glorified chase film. Technically masterful, it brings a lot of ideas to the table and, like most of the best science fiction, doesn't bring unwarranted attention to its dystopian future.

The characters fully inhabit this world and their fatalism is one of the most affecting aspects of Cuaron's many-layered themes. The acting is solid throughout, though it's Owen who gives the finest performance. He is aided by capable support from Julianne Moore as his ex-wife and Michael Caine especially, as a crusty old mentor.

The film was mostly overlooked at the major award shows and failed to garner a Best Picture nomination or any acting nominations at the Oscars. It was, however, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to "The Departed."

But like "Blade Runner" and "Brazil," its status as a cult film is already being solidified. Like those other left-field classics, "Children of Men" may soon be appreciated as Cuaron's best work - certainly, it's his most accomplished to date, at least from a technical perspective.

"Children of Men" comes to DVD in a one-disc widescreen edition with an anamorphic transfer that preserves the film's 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture is very clean and crisp, which accentuates Lubezki's stunning cinematography. Cuaron is known for his moving camera, and "Children of Men" has very complex mise-en-scene that transfers well to DVD.

The sound comes in a 5.1 Dolby Digital track which is adequately immersive, though it's a bit disappointing that there wasn't a DTS track included - the "war scenes" really could have benefited from the depth and power of DTS.

It's too bad that a film of this caliber doesn't come in a two-disc special edition, especially at its $30 retail price tag. It's easy to suspect that a better edition will be forthcoming, which is often the case with high-profile films like this.

The extras on the disc include several making-of featurettes and an interesting look at how the special effects of the baby were done. Unfortunately, there's no commentary, which is a shame - it would be interesting to hear what Cuaron, Owen, Moore and Caine would have to say.

"Children of Men" is a great film that deserves a better release. As with "Flags of Our Fathers" (whose special edition has already been announced), don't be surprised if a special edition is not that far down the road. As it stands, the one-disc DVD is an adequate release of an excellent film.