ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Children Of Men

I finally saw it, and I liked it a lot. One of the best movies I've seen in the last few years. If you haven't seen it, stop reading now, and go see it.

***SPOILERS***

It's hard to know where to stop talking about what really works well here. The bleak future-world is well-realized; we're given enough of a glimpse of things to make it seem very fleshed out, with a myriad of things only hinted at.

In fact, one can say that about the whole film. We never learn a lot about the main characters, but the script does a good job revealing who they really are through action, while things keep moving briskly enough that we never find ourselves wondering about Kee's backstory.

The basic storyline is really very simple -- a man has to get a woman from point A to point B, with various people trying to stop them -- but the writers (there were a bunch of them, working from a novel by P.D. James) do a very good job weaving the tale out of a series of great sequences, finding good mini-dramas each step of the way while making the danger Theo and Kee are in feel plausible throughout.

And the setpieces -- wow. I have no idea how they did that single-shot sequence in the car, while the third act is amazing.

In the comments two posts down, there was some debate over the story logic, with a poster feeling that the main characters were able to get away from the bad guys too easily at times, and that Theo's motivation never made much sense because the baby wasn't that important.

I never felt this at all. The one scene he cites in which they don't shoot at the tires, it was clearly because they didn't want to risk anything happening to Kee.

As for the baby not being important, clearly there's the idea that the scientists might be able to use Kee or the baby to figure out why Kee is fertile, while the idea that Theo wouldn't just leave her to die somewhere is an important part of his growth as a character and establishing who he is.

Great movie.

18 Comments:

At 11:58 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

i agree with everyone that it's great filmmaking, but there's essentially no story. amazing set-pieces and non-obtrusive vfx, but it's basically a road trip movie.

 
At 10:03 AM, Anonymous kristen said...

deepstructure,

you must be the guy who was next to us at our showing at the sherman oaks galleria. the lights came up, my boyfriend was crying (don't tell him i told you guys), and someone pushed past us saying "I never saw a film with no story before!"

Which kind of surprised me. I've seen tons, on a regular basis.

I think getting from point A to point B, and securing the future of the human race in the process, is a story. I suspect what bugs people is not knowing a) why women are infertile (which is fine with me -- the characters and scientists don't know, so why should we?); and b) what happens next. I'm kind of OK with not knowing the answers to those questions. This particular film dealt in realism, not sci fi.

I liked the movie, but I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. Critical hype will do that to a viewer.

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I think there's plenty of story. I think you could tell someone the plot, about this guy who finds himself a reluctant hero, and they'd be rivted even without the visuals.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

No story? Deep - Are you drunk? Stoned? Drunk & Stoned? Look, you don't have to love it, but to say it's got no story is ludicrous.

Agree with Kristen above, a jaded everyman possibly saving the human race is a good story in my book.

Also, they eluded to the fact that Theo had a child (but died) in the past. Saving this child could also redeem him.

Anyhoo. Scott, glad you liked it so much, I've been raving about it over on my blog, too. Easily the best in a LONG LONG time. It floored me.

I got a copy of the script from Aaron Coffman, I'll check the date on it, that I plan on checking out soon.

 
At 1:03 PM, Anonymous win said...

Hi Scott

Have a look at this youTube video which shows how that scene was done.

Win

 
At 1:04 PM, Anonymous win said...

Here's the link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A55xTYXMpI

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Win -- Very cool, and worth watching. Thanks for the link.

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

I'm with Patrick of this one. Children of Men is definitely the best movie of 2006, maybe even the best of the past two or three years - if not more.

Oh, and if anybody ever uses the "this film has no plot/story!" critique again, I will personally bite their fingers off and gouge their eyes out with them. Deep, you're the last one getting away unscathed, if only because you liked Syriana. That's cool.

I mean, guys, every movie has a story. That story might be illogical, rushed, badly develloped, or just plain bad, but there is always a story.

Especially in road movies.


P.S. That car-rig-thing is one of the most amazing pieces of equipment I have ever seen in my life. I wonder if there are any on e-bay...

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Brett said...

Wow-- that was one crazy shot.

Did I hear right-- a twelve-minute shot? Now I don't feel so bad about my four and sometimes five pages scenes.

.
.
B

 
At 7:32 PM, Blogger Chris said...

i thought the plot -- once you get past the premise of an infertile world -- was pretty thin. not to say that the getting from point A to point B isn't an amazing journey in itself. but there's not much underneath that, in the way that Blade Runner said a little bit more about what it means to be human or alive above and beyond being just a cop movie in the future. maybe kee making it to the Human Project will be the moment humanity turned things around. maybe not. maybe even if it could solve the infertility problem, humanity is already too far gone and that was just the trigger that started then end of our reign on Earth. but the film never really answers or particularly explores those questions that it raises at the outset. still a heckuva ride though.

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger wcmartell said...

I also liked it - very much like ROAD WARRIOR (seriously) with a protag who doesn't care about society doing something noble for society.

And, amazing action set pieces and war stuff. Very relistic (the new thing in action - see any of the BOURNE movies or thr new Bond) and exciting.

Two thing I had problems with:

1) The alarm at Caine's that goes off when bad guys show up, but not when Clive shows up (Caine & wife are sleeping).

2) Clive is a drunk. He refills his bottle at Caine's. But at the end, he uses up his booze for the greater good... and that's kind of in the background. That kind of moment needs to be a moment. I think it was a moment in the script (without ever reading it - just the fact that it happens) but on screen you hardly notice it. I think the director really needed to make that Clive's big moment, instead of bury it.

That amazing shot - a lift from Joe Lewis' GUN CRAZY - is a huge massive action sequence... all shot from inside the car. More things happen in that one scene than in some whole action films!

- Bill

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

im amazed at what people will defend when they like a movie. yes, it has amazing camera work and visuals, and yes it's an interesting trip - but a series of events strung together is not a story. an emotional motivation to save a child because you lost one is not a story.

getting from point a to point b can be interesting and fun. but just because i tell my friends about every twist and turn on a roller-coaster doesn't mean im telling a story. im describing the ride.

the only real story element in this is when clive discovers her death was an inside job designed to spark an uprising, and she prepped for the possibility by warning kee to only trust him. everything else is simply fancy footwork.

beautiful, gripping, amazing footwork. watching a dance is not the same as experiencing a story.

im not invalidating the film. im not immune to its charms or it's brilliance. not every film has to be an intricate story (and if you're going to argue as s.a. does that everything is story then why do we have the term?).

but it's power doesn't come from it's amazing story-telling, incredible revelations or emotional arcs - it comes from it's visual virtuosity and pacing. it's a heavy, weighted thrill-ride.

 
At 10:25 PM, Blogger James said...

Come on, Scott. I respect your opinion a lot, but...

"As for the baby not being important, clearly there's the idea that the scientists might be able to use Kee or the baby to figure out why Kee is fertile."

Feel free to site one scene from the movie that has any evidence of this.
Hell, is there even a scientist we meet in the entire movie?

There is as much evidence to support "scientists being able to figure out why Kee is fertile," as there is to support that they never figure it out.

In fact, probably moreso because anomilies happen all the time. That doesn't mean they are reproducable.

3rd Act? Seriously...? The objective of the second act is to get Kee from point A to point B. when that happens the movie ends. There is no third act.

I'm not bashing this movie. It is one of the better films this year. But it is highly overrated.

As for the long takes... they are the best part of the movie. They are astonishing in complexitiy and orchestration. The pace and mood created by NOT cutting is incredible.

 
At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like how SOME of the people here that don't like the movie almost try to make those who do like it feel stupid. Some liked it, some didn't. You're not any smarter because you discovered some hole in the plot, or you horribly overanalyze every scene looking for mistakes or inaccuracies. It's a hell of a lot better than 98% of the crap that's playing right now.

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

ofEveryone is entitled to their opinion, even if it's wrong.

:)

Joking, relax. I'm just glad you guys saw it and and at least appreciated the fine filmmaking.

But it did get 3 Oscar noms, and 1 of those was for Adapted Screenplay! Booyaa!

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

of course, borat also was nominated for adapted screenplay...mmmmm.

 
At 7:36 AM, Anonymous amitbe said...

there is an article in the LA times where cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki explains how the car sequence was shot. Reading it just makes the whole thing evcn more unbelievable.

 
At 5:40 AM, Anonymous scott the vfx guy said...

i will agree that children of men doesnt really have a 3rd act in the normal sense. this is a film where ignoring the standard 3 act structure works really well. i love the way it leaves you thinking.

and james "Feel free to site one scene from the movie that has any evidence of this.
Hell, is there even a scientist we meet in the entire movie? "

i guess you missed the whole story line about the "human project being the finest minds in the world."

oh and i worked on this films main vfx sequences. ie the car shot and the bexhill rescue sequence. so exuse me if i sound a by defensive of this film.

 

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