Children Of Men

Children Of Men (2006)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Interviews, Comments, U-Control, BD Live

"Children Of Men" is one of those films that you don't hear a whole lot about, yet when you see them, they are quite impressive, and when people begin to talk about them, everyone goes "Oh yeah, that film was great!" Finally available on Blu-Ray Disc also from Universal Home Entertainment, we gave this release a spin to see how it turned out.

Directed and written by Alfonso Cuarón, "Children Of Men" is a dark science fiction film about the impending doom of mankind. In the year 2027 all women of the world are infertile and it has been almost 20 years since the last baby was born. Gradually, one person at a time, the human race is dying out. And the world looks accordingly. With civilization in shambles the world seems a place of anarchy, a place of civil unrest in which police forces are barely able to keep a lid on the boiling pot.

After losing his son to a flu pandemic many years ago, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is living a hopeless life. He has nothing to live for and while he doesn't have the strength to put an end to his miserable life, he is simply drifting along, hopeless, numb, and without aspirations. The only light in his life is his friend Jasper (Michael Caine), sort of a hippie relic, who tries to teach him to embrace some of the beauties of life.

Then one day his former wife, Julian (Julianne Moore) shows up, out of the blue. She is the leader of a political underground movement with a proposition. She asks Theo to work his contacts to get transport papers that would allow one of their members to travel to the coast through police controlled area. With $5000 as an incentive Theo accepts, gets the papers and travels with the group to take the young woman to the coast. But then something remarkable happens. He realizes the woman is pregnant! She is a walking miracle. She is carrying the only hope of mankind. The only baby in 20 years and through it, she becomes the target of every political group and every ambitious revolutionist. Suddenly not only the safety of the young woman is in his hands but the future of all mankind!

"Children Of Men" is an interesting film working with an intriguing premise. Dark, seedy and gritty there is not a single frame of beauty or pleasure in the entire film. As such it is a very brooding experience, especially combined with the graphic violence that splatters the screen – and the camera lens – continuously.

While the film, to me, was not a real sensation, it does have a lot going for it, most notably it's rather impressive direction by Alfonso Cuarón. The plot is brimming with action and violence – and that is probably the main reason for its general popularity – that is marvelously put into images. The film creates an amazing reality despite its slightly futuristic setting. At any given moment the viewer feels as if they're part of the action, right there next to the characters, creating a rather strong rapport if you will that keeps the viewer on the edge.

On the other hand however I found the characters to be flat and distant. We have no idea for people's motivations, their backgrounds or their ideals. Nothing in the film really made me care about any of the characters, including Theo or Kee, the young mother. Frankly, I was glad when Julianne Moore's character left the story – I still can't understand why anyone is casting her for anything in a movie with her grating voice and complete inability to evoke emotions – and the only true highlight of the film is Michael Caine in a part that is much too small. Overall it is not a matter of poor acting but an underdeveloped script that leaves the viewer detached at all times.

I was always looking for a moment of revelation, where I get the sense that pieces fall into place, or a sense of relief that everything may be alright or even a sense of dread that things might not turn out so well in the end. Sadly I didn't get either and even when the movie's end credits started to roll I couldn't really care for the film's outcome. So all in all, while it was fun to watch, it was fun only while it lasted and without provoking any thoughts or further emotions.

Universal Home Entertainment sends "Children Of Men" in the high definition race here with a great-looking 1080p transfer in the movie's original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film's gritty and stark look is nicely reproduced here without any flaws or blemishes while always making sure the film's grain is properly reproduced. It is a sign of the strength of the high definition format that it can reproduce grain flawlessly in a way that looks like a film presentation rather than a noise digital transfer. Extremely strong contrasts make out the movie's image as well as undersaturated colors that give the world a bleak look throughout. The beauty of the English countryside is nicely captured during the travel while always maintaining that look of a ravaged civilization. Blacks are rock solid, creating deep shadows that are impenetrable at times without ever breaking up. Highlights are bold without bleeding. A direct comparison with the previously released HD-DVD version shows that this Blu-Ray version looks slightly more natural with noticeably less video compression.

Outperforming the HD-DVD by leagues, this release has a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless Audio track that puts everything else to shame. Frenetic and aggressive at all times, the film makes phenomenal use of the surround channels. Given the level of war-style action the track has ample opportunity to bombard the viewer from all directions. Bullets and grenades are flying through the surrounds, screams, cries and debris fills the sound field, giving the movie a very realistic sound stage. Dialogues are a bit undermixed and sometimes too low in volume compared to the music and sound effects and I found myself jumping for the remote control a few times.

The release also contains a number of extras to supplement the feature film, most of which were part of the previous HD-DVD release. The meat of it consists of a number of featurettes covering the making of the movie. Director Alfonso Cuarón discusses the metaphors he used in the film as they relate to modern day society in "The Possibility Of Hope." "Under Attack" takes a closer look at some of the film's most dangerous scenes. It is an interesting piece that shows how the filmmakers got the momentously volatile atmosphere in which you really got a sense that anyone could drop dead in a split second while trying to keep the actors safe.

The best featurette on the disc is probably "Creating the Baby." The scenes with the baby in the film are pretty explosive and this featurette gives you a very good glimpse at how they have been put together.

Three deleted scenes and interviews with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore are also included in "Theo & Julian" but they are all of dubious value. The featurette "Futuristic Design" examines the individual steps to bring Cuarón's dark, brooding vision of the future to life.

Lastly the release contains "Children of Men" comments by philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

This release also features Universal's "U-Control" feature which gives you the chance to look at some bonus materials while the film is running, using picture-in-picture technology. Curiously it is pretty slim here with not much on offer but a few images and super brief interview snippets.

"Info & Commercials" is a bonus feature, exclusive to the Blu-Ray version, taking a look at the billboards, commercials and advertising seen in the film itself. when activated, this feature will also pop up as the movie is running and not a stand-alone featurette.

With BD Live, Universal has added a web link that gives you access to additional content hosted on the Internet.

"Children Of Men" is a cool film, no doubt, but not a lot more. It is entertaining and offers good action that looks and feels entirely different from traditional Hollywood fare. That alone makes it worth the view the film even if it falls a bit flat in the script department. And then, seeing Michael Caine with a long white mane playing air guitar while being stoned to the eyeballs alone is worth watching this film.