Films in which the future of the human species is at stake tend to be problematic; the commodification of despair is tricky stuff. Alfonso CuarÃ³n’s adaptation of P.D. James novel is certainly a very entertaining, emotionally and intellectually powerful film with one of the best endings of the year. And it is beautiful to look at. But that’s kind of ironic, yes? Here the landscape of broken, bombed-out buildings (shot in muted, blue-grey tones) approaches something best described as rubble-chic (the art direction is superb, but one questions if the end of the world should be reminiscent of early mornings at Hogwarts). That’s cinematic dystopia for you. But I’ll not labor the point; Clive Owen looks appropriately grizzled and that will do.
I have a lot of questions. What exactly do the Fishes want with Kee’s baby? What does The Human Genome Project do? When will the Beatles and the Stones no longer be relevant (and Arnab, where is my Revolver disc)? Why must a white man’s redemption narrative relegate those immigrants confined in cages and shunted off to detention camps to the dramatic sidelines not to mention upstaging the young African refugee who appears to be the one hope for the future of the planet (I’m so reminded of Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia: the mother does indeed need a rest). Here’s what I liked: Michael Caine. He just keeps getting better delivering two excellent supporting performances this year. I also liked the really strange scene with Danny Huston; his autistic boy toy, his appropriation of Michelangelo’s David and Picasso’s Guernica not to mention the power to look out his windows and see Pink Floyd’s Animals lp cover brought to life for what I can only imagine to be his amusement (the choice here is intertextually confusing at best). I would have liked a bit more of Huston and his lot but mostly I got a lot of gypsies avoiding bullets. I liked the Hamlet reference (Quietus) in the latest pharmaceutical wonder cure. I liked the camera work and the editing and, yes, the art direction. Mostly, I think this film to be the best anti-Iraq War film yet. Its smart and disturbing vision of western civilization retreating behind its borders at a moment of dire crisis turns notions of globalization on its head. As the British round up illegal “fugees” in busses manned by the forces of Homeland Security, it’s hard not to reflect on the events taking place in the world today. In Children of Men the entire planet has turned into Baghdad and hope for the future is slim to none. Reynolds, you saw it, yes; hell we may have attended the same screening. Tell me why it is the best film of the year?