Children of Men is bloody tremendous. Julianne Moore doesn't cry once, sadly, but she does positively glow with mournfulness. She has a small stud in her nose, which means she's a revolutionary. Most of the revolutionaries are either non-white or have facial piercings or dreadlocks or smoke joints and listen to The Beatles, which is useful for disinguishing them from the compliant and herdlike Britons inured to the even more herdlike refugees in cages lining the tracks where the train cars pass, themselves cages. Bare life, yes. And something is happening to the animals which isn't explained really well, horses burn stifflegged in jumbles in the otherwise familiar English countryside.
If you see this movie in the theater, I advise sitting as far back from the screen as possible. The handheld shots in the beginning of the movie palpate in seasickmaking unease (a prolepsis of the final shot, which I won't disclose); the camera rocks and rattles, and as far I can remember almost everything is out of focus except a thin band in the midground which usually includes the talented Clive Owen and the incredible structure of the bones of his face (see above). Lots of action in corners of the screen, which are always open, unprotected. But, as the content of the film becomes more horrifying in itself, the form itself ceases to do the work of suffering and making suffer.
Because of, perhaps, the incredible improbability of this film's combination of Christian messianism, new age bubbleheadedness, and your standard revolutionaries with guns (it is, yes, an X-mas film, stress on The Cross, folks), this film is a perfect negative of the world we now live in. A town on the English coast becomes the West Bank . London is Baghdad with carbombs. Guantanamo everywhere. And as is always the case in good sci-fi, the future can only be future by quoting the past--hence the revolutionary hopes circle around music from The Summer of Love, although there is, like, three-seconds of Aphex Twin somewhere; hence three-wheeled motorcycle taxis belching smoke; hence the wormhole of the holocaust threading the movie's set and costume design. The kinds of empty and fear-soaked domination, the animalizing of people, the racist imagos that drift in the air like the Pink Floyd pig featured in one particularly memorable scene, all of this has left me rattled because, well, I know that this is where I live and that I'm a part of it, that I have no way to resist it. In nearly all respects this is the movie that V for Vendetta might have been had it not gotten sucked into the pop-psychology of The Painful and Personal Past. This is featured here, too, but avoided for the most part. Neither banished nor allowed to dominate.
The central premise of the film, that humans have ceased to be able to reproduce, will, I am sure, be much and helpfully discussed in the future. For now, I would suggest that we take it allegorically-- I would suggest that this is about what is happening in the developed world with the higher and higher number of hours members of the middle-class spend interfacing with some kind of technology, the alienation from our aching and poorly-postured or gym-disciplined bodies. But it is also, isn't it, an awareness of the incredible pointlessness of capitalism after some unspecifiable point in the twentieth-century, the failure of those swarms of liquid capital to find something productive to sink their teeth into--a factory, say, or soybeans. Well, the needs of the world's poor don't really produce the kinds of profits that companies want, and, in the end, aside from enough money for healthcare and childcare, clothes, decent food and a place to live (none of this pays), I don't really need any more shit. It's just gadgetry: IPod's designed to break after two years, flat panel televisions, etc., etc. There's nothing to produce. So, investors become increasingly speculative and cannibalistic. Hype and real estate. But war pays, and war opens markets. That 15% rise in the Dow this year? It's all tanks, the Mills of China, and Viagra Falls. Onward, ho.
And so, what then? Well, in this film, this is how chances stand: a stoned old hippy (who has my name) and his copy of the I Ching , a former "activist" who is now surviving as a quiet and apolitical member of the middle class, a white woman who is leader of the revolutionaries, and a number of revolutionaries of South Asian or African or Arab descent who turn out to be bloodthirsty traitors. Oh, and I almost forgot, the great hope in the form of the radiant Afro-British pregnant woman (who the white people help to safety). As a model for social change under tyrannny, sound familiar? Also Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior. You'll see what I mean.