Dreamgirls, Children, Iwo Jima and more
Caution: Alfonso Cuaró n's new film, Children of Men, is nothing like any of his previous films. It's not a children's flick, like A Little Princess of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Nor is it a present-day road movie, like his acclaimed Mexican tale Y Tu Mama Tambien. And it's not a romantic classic, like his adaptation of Great Expectations.
No, Children of Men is an R-rated, hyperviolent, nightmarish epic set in a bleak version of the future. It's also an inspiring, bright vision of hope set against a nightmarish backdrop of a disintegrating world.
Based on a story penned by P.D. James, a professing Christian better known for her mystery novels, Cuaró n and four additional screenwriters have streamlined and revised the narrative, turning it into an adrenalin-rush action movie. Fans of the novel will debate Cuaró n's many and varied departures from the text. Some revisions heighten the story's connections to present-day crises; others cloud James' moral vision.
Whatever the case, it would be hard for any moviegoer to deny that there are obvious allusions to the gospel at every turn, reminding us that God gave us hope by providing a vulnerable, miraculous child to a dark, dying, violent world. We watch as a man named Theo (Clive Owen) and a woman Kee (Claire Hope Ashitey) take enormous risks, seek help among the humble, and flee from cruel and malevolent men in power.
It can't be an accident that the film opened in U.S. theaters on December 25.
My full review is at Christianity Today Movies.
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says, "Children of Men moves slowly at times, but always with purpose. It does not meander, nor is it boring. It does, however; require patience. Those who grant it that will be impressed, for the film's periodic payoffs, and its mesmerizing climax, are among the year's best cinematic sequences. … [F]or Christian audiences interested in a radical, contemporary approach to hope amid dire circumstances, Children of Men is bound to stir discussion."
Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) calls it "a bleak futuristic political thriller with pointed parallels to the present day. … Director Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of P.D. James' novel is intentionally dark and disturbing. But the chase sequences are undeniably exciting and quite brilliantly done, and it is in those sequences that the film is most compelling."
Responding with a mixed review, Greg Wright (Past the Popcorn) writes, "For those who want a creative, violent, and moderately challenging alternative to the schmaltz, materialism, and Hallmark-card shallowness of the usual vision of the Christmas season, Cuaró n is here to save the day. If you're looking for serious sci-fi, earnest political commentary, or a searing depiction of the future of mankind. … Well, don't expect that much."
Even less enthusiastic, Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) says, "While believers may extrapolate matters of faith from this thought-provoking story, its makers clearly intend this to be a political film. … As such, the project offers both a not-so-subtle warning for modern-day politicians and a heartfelt statement underscoring the value of children. Both are messages that need to be heard. But both get overshadowed by 1) gaps in the story, and 2) an even darker cloud of unnecessary content."
Most of these reviewers probably haven't read P.D. James' novel in its entirety before seeing the film. (I didn't.) But Anthony Sacramone (First Things) had read it, and he says the film is an act of vandalism against James' work, calling it "little more than high-tech agit-prop targeting the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, border policing, and Homeland Security. … Throughout the film, characters from the novel are reassigned roles and political stances as Cuaró n and co-screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton see fit. In fact, the first thing Cuaró n does when he arrives in the year 2027 is eliminate the Christians. … What's insufferable is his pressing into service someone else's vision as a commercial vehicle for a personal political screed."