Children of Men Blu-ray Review
PictureChildren of Men comes to Blu-ray presented with a solid 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Having previously owned the movie on HD DVD (released almost two years ago) I have to say that little has changed, although this is not necessarily a bad thing. You have to remember that, even though the movie has a future setting, the Director intended to shoot it in a documentary style, and as such he clearly employed several different filming techniques (steadicam and camcorder shots) more akin to CNN than reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia. In light of this, it was always going to be the case that the source material would never look pristine - moreover it was never intended to look pristine. Nevertheless detail is generally excellent throughout, the dystopian English settings brimming with authentic grit, dirt, and dust, and everything seemingly falling apart - from the cars to the graffiti-strewn buildings to the drably-dressed people themselves. This is the absolute definition of bleak, and the dour colour scheme perfectly reflects this, with very little - if any - use of vivid colours at all in the movie. As for grain, well you came to the right place. But the film of grain that tends to pervade the entire production never looks like anything other than intentional on the part of the Director, and unquestionably adds to the realistic, impending-doom feel to the movie. No amount of DNR is going to remove that blood splatter purposefully left on the camera, so if you have a problem with this accurate and lovingly rendered Blu-ray presentation of the movie then your issues are more with the style of filming than the disc's presentation.
SoundChildren of Men comes complete with a boisterous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that, right from the outset, delivers in every respect. The movie has a cleverly constructed sound design and here it is accurately rendered, even improving, not only on its SD DVD predecessor but also slightly on its now redundant HD DVD counterpart, where all we got were standard (if powerful) Dolby Digital Plus mixes. Dialogue is key to this drama, with every whisper and every shout clinically reproduced in a clear and coherent way. And whilst the movie can get extremely loud, the dialogue is never swamped, always taking precedence over the fronts and centre channels where appropriate. The film is almost devoid of score, really going back to emphasising that documentary-feel, and allowing the atmospherics to take over and truly put you in the middle of this dystopian future world. Everything from the gravel or underbrush trodden underfoot, to the wailing sirens and bustling streets, comes at you in an all-encompassing, highly immersive fashion, offering up unprecedented atmospherics that make you feel like you are actually there. And then when things get loud, they really get loud, with punishing gunfire, bullets whizzing across your living room, tank shells tearing up the landscape or bombs taking out shop fronts and totally deafening you in the process (and the characters on screen too). The opening sequence is a prime example of just how quickly this track can adapt, from ambient to bombast, in the blink of an eye. The LFE channel is also on fire, particularly during this more incendiary moments. Powerful and boisterous, without losing any of its keen attention to detail, the track excels on all levels at presenting this movie in its best possible incarnation thus far.
ExtrasHaving previously been released on HD DVD with a plethora of extras, there has been little changed in porting them over to Blu-ray, so we basically get all of the same stuff, together with the U-Control facility which allows for some Picture-in-Picture provisions. Within this we get the full length future-commercials shot for the movie, together with a more detailed look at the billboards and advertising posters, as well as some behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. Although none of it runs the entirety of the movie, there is plenty of material here to keep you occupied for the most part.
We get three fairly unremarkable Deleted Scenes, as well as a selection of Featurettes. The 3 minute Visual Effects: Creating the Baby does exactly what it says on the box, offering up some brief detail into how they made the CGI infant seem so very realistic. Futuristic Design runs at 8 minutes, and takes us from concept to creation, showcasing how the Director brought the ideas to life. Theo & Julian takes a short look at these two characters, with insight from the actors who play them, Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, respectively. Under Attack spends 7 minutes focussing on the main action sequences - basically the really long takes which required months of preparation and took a remarkably long time to perfect. The best offering, however, is The Possibility of Hope, a more substantial Documentary that takes the best part of half an hour to look philosophy behind the movie, and relate some of the bleak future themes to those of modern society. The Director discusses these points at length and this is certainly far more interesting than just a fluffy, promotional making-of effort, although I don't know why he could not have provided a full length audio commentary instead - with all this information. In a similar vein, we get a few minutes' worth of comments by philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
VerdictChildren of Men finally comes to Blu-ray in the US and it was definitely worth the wait. An amazing movie, thought-provoking, powerful, moving and packed with some breathtaking and tense set-pieces, it also marks Clive Owen's best film and arguably best performance to date. The video presentation and audio offering are pretty spectacular too, and we get all of the fairly decent extras ported over from the previous HD DVD counterpart. If you've only got the SD DVD it's a no-brainer upgrade, if you've got the HD DVD combo, it's worth eventually upgrading from the dead format, and if you have the Danish Blu-ray then it's worth checking out the DTS-HD MA soundtrack upgrade. And if you have not even seen this movie, then you should go out and pick up this Blu-ray right now and allow it a prized place in your collection. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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