Children of Men Blu-ray Review
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Children of Men Film Review
2006’s Children of Men brought Handmaid's Tale-esque themes to the fore to great effect long before bleak future dystopia became such a popular staging ground.Painting a bleak picture of the future like something out of Orwell's 1984, Children of Men is a powerful thriller memorable for its tense action sequences which have a brutal, consequential reality to them. The poignant tale looks closely at human nature, the apathy that goes in tandem with the loss of dreams and of hope - what remaining purpose is there to life when you know that there is no future for the entire human race?
More politically, it looks at the in-fighting, rioting, and rebellions that form on both sides of the law - within the supposedly cause-driven activist's camp (quite a sympathetic, yet realistic portrayal of terrorism - and its own twisted ideals), and across the wire within the ranks of the corrupt military and police force. And when a hope emerges - like a single plant in an arid desert - will all these people be able to cope with the resulting change, or will some try and fight it, or use it to gain power?
A minor classic.
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who would go on to wow audiences with Gravity, the film is one of the best 'bleak future sci-fi' productions in the noughties - a sub-genre that, with the likes of the almost identically-themed Handmaid's Tale, is obviously much more popular now - using smaller scale incidents and scenes to hammer home the oppressive scenario, making the limited budget work for the piece.
Here, every detail adds to the impact - you feel the desperation as Clive Owen (enjoying a career highlight) tries to jump-start a car, shoe-less and slipping in the mud; the panic as his car is attacked from all sides down a country road by bikers and an angry mob, lobbing molotovs and shooting at them; or the brutal shell-shocked impact of the finale. Using his now-trademark long, well-constructed shots Cuaron manages to keep the tension going for what seems like an eternity, making you feel on the edge of your seat throughout, and positively exhausted by the end of it all. And all the while, he fuels the piece with a heightened political agenda that makes the simple escape-and-survive tale richly layered.
They are some truly memorable sequences, bolstering a powerful story and a minor classic of a film which also boasts some great performances (not least Owen, but also Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Peter Mullan, Danny Huston and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and comes from a writer/director who may not have made a great deal of movies across the decades, but makes the ones that he does deliver count. A whopping seven years would pass between this and Gravity and then a further five inexplicable years after that Oscar-winning directorial success until his latest, Roma, which is due to hit Netflix shortly. However that turns out, there's no denying the impact of his earlier gems.
Children of Men Blu-ray PictureArrow deliver up a re-release of Children of Men, the best part of a decade on from its first bow on the format, promoting it with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Although it was a relatively early Blu-ray release - in the first few years of the format - Children of Men hardly provided an unpleasant presentation back in mid-2009, suffering from few glaring issues. Indeed most of the problems it faced largely stemmed from the handheld style of cinematography, which delivered a suitably gritty vision of the subject matter but didn't always equate to pristine picture quality.
Fans may not have been crying out for an upgrade, but they get one nonetheless, and it's great.
Despite all of that, this new encode, likely sourced from the original 4K DI, delivers improved image stability, better clarity, finer textures and a wonderfully light sheen of grain that merely leaves the picture looking suitably filmic and never prevents you from lapping up every last nuance that the enhanced visuals afford. Fans may not have been crying out for an upgrade, but they get one nonetheless, and it's great.
The colour scheme is as dour as it ever was, framing the future dystopia in browns and greys, and rendering only a few brief hints of vibrancy. It's all cast upon superbly refined black levels that provide excellent shadow detail and round out an excellent presentation. Yes, you have to accept Cuaron's shooting style, but this is still easily the best the film has ever looked.
Children of Men Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track isn't quite the Atmos upgrade that some might have hoped for (undoubtedly they will save that for the 4K release a few years down the line - when the ambush sequence will sound even more impressive) but it's still a great little track that delivers the key setpieces with aplomb, and carries the drama between with keen attention to detail.
A great little track.
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, getting clear dissemination even when characters are talking off-screen or on the other side of closed doors, the windows or round a corner. The score is populated by a bevvy of curiously old tracks (given its 2027 setting), casting back to the 60s and 70s for a score of classics which suit the mood and tone of the piece, but don't always make a whole lot of sense given the setting. Nonetheless, the tracks get great coverage across the array, affording the surrounds plenty to do, although not delivering the kind of rumble we get during the key action setpieces - from the ambush to the wartorn finale - with gunshots and even tank shells pounding at you with LFE enthusiasm. It's a great little track.
Children of Men Blu-ray ExtrasArrow's UK Children of Men set includes a pretty healthy extras package which boasts a brand new Audio Commentary from author and critic Bryan Reesman, a new Video Appreciation by film historian Philip Kemp and a new Video Essay by author and critic Kat Ellinger.
A pretty healthy extras package.
There are also a number of older features, including an Archival Documentary, The Possibility of Hope; an Archival Featurette, Comments by philosopher Slavoj Zizek; a quartet of Archival Featurettes - Creating the Baby, Futuristic Design, Theo & Julian and Under Attack; some Deleted Scenes and an Image Gallery. The release comes with a reversible sleeve featuring new artwork too, and a collector's booklet.
Children of Men Blu-ray VerdictAn excellent release.
Alfonso 'Gravity' Cuaron's 2006 sci-fi thriller, Children of Men, remains a great little dystopic gem, earning a newly-encoded video courtesy of Arrow which leaves the presentation better than ever. Couple that with a strong audio track and a few nice extras to bolster an already healthy supplemental package and you have an excellent release that fans should have no hesitation in picking up. Unless, of course, you want to hold out for that 4K disc that hopefully we will one day get.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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