15 years ago Alfonso Cuarón perfected the modern dystopian thriller
Every time someone speaks on Children of men, they mention his opening scene. It’s not hard to see why.
Theo Faron (Clive Owen) walks into a crowded cafe, orders a coffee, and watches a report on the death of the world’s youngest, an 18-year-old man named Diego. The camera then follows Theo as he exits the cafe, stops in the street to add alcohol to his drink, and drops everything when the coffee suddenly explodes behind him.
It’s a visceral and technically impressive streak that perfectly sets up not only the brutality of Children of menbut also the tone and visual style of the film. Much has been made of the technical merits of the stage, with much praise generally placed on the decision of director Alfonso Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to stage Theo’s exit and the cafe bombing. like an uninterrupted outlet.
But there is not enough emphasis on how Children of menThe opening scene defines it perfectly as a modern dystopian masterpiece. Cuarón and his collaborators not only draw the viewer into Children of menby shock and violence, but also by their use of familiar places, reports and current events.
Coffee shops and terrorist attacks are, after all, two things that are particularly familiar to citizens of the 21st century. By combining them, Children of men immediately introduces us to a dystopia that is both alien and utterly familiar, making it all the more terrifying.
Children of menuse of the well-known iconography of the 20th and 21st centuries does not begin and end with its opening scene.
Throughout its runtime, the film travels to places familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the news for the past 30 years – from abandoned schoolyards to camps where refugees and immigrants are locked up. in cages. Children of men Also makes excellent use of iconic 20th century bands like The Rolling Stones and Radiohead, with songs from both bands playing crucial stages in the background.
Children of men also refers to famous works of art, including Michelangelo’s “Pietà”. Even the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album, Animals, is referenced in a shot of the first act of the film.
All of these visual references help to anchor Cuarón’s film in an undeniably familiar world. We recognize the music that plays there and the places it visits. And then, as all great science fiction movies should, Children of men takes her recognizable world and filters it through a key fictitious vanity. In this case, a world in which no babies have been born for 18 years.
By striving so hard to make his world familiar despite the science fiction principle at its center, Children of men manages to tell a dystopian story in a way that no other 21st century film has. While there have been a lot of dystopian movies and TV shows over the past 15 years, none of them perform on the same level as Children of men.
Dystopian society seen in The hunger Games, for example, appears to be more manufactured and fantastic than that of Children of men, which works precisely because of its familiarity and authenticity. While masterful in itself, even a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road only qualifies as a dystopian thriller by technicality. The world shown there might be a futuristic version of Earth, but the movie could be set on another planet and that would still be great.
The same cannot be said of Children of men. Cuaron’s film is set in the future, but the story feels just as urgent now as it was when it first came out – and that’s mainly because of the credibility of his view of Earth 2027.
Children of men works on multiple levels – like a thriller, gripping action movie, family drama, etc. The way Cuarón and everyone who participated in it (especially Emmanuel Lubezki) brought it to life remains just as impressive today as it was 15 years ago.
But there have been a lot of well-done action movies and sci-fi dramas released over the past fifteen years. Which makes Children of men a masterpiece is how successful it is as a dystopian thriller. The futuristic society of the film is rooted in a recognizable iconography of the 20th and 21st centuries, which makes its themes and reflections on the future earth of humanity much more difficult.
Fifteen years later, it remains the gold standard of modern dystopian films, and to date no film has come close to its greatness.
Children of men airs on Amazon Prime Video until January 1, 2022.