The Brilliance of “Children of Men”

SPOILERS FOR CHILDREN OF MEN

“Children of Men” directed by Alfonso Cuarón, starring Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, is set in a not-so-distant future in which women have become infertile. In this dystopian world, Clive Owen’s character is asked by his old-lover to help transport a girl, who’s miraculously become pregnant.

Every aspect of Children of Men could be analyzed to death. It’s truly a remarkable film, everything’s done exactly the way it’s supposed to be done. It’s a technological masterpiece, though I’ve chosen one scene in particular that really stood out to me to analyze. This scene is mostly known as “the car” scene, in which all of our protagonists are cramped into one car and are driving down the road. Doesn’t seem that exciting, does it? Well, it is. The whole thing, for about four minutes, takes place in one continuous take or is at least made to look like it was done in one take. You’d think that the scene must’ve been ugly-looking, because of the limited movement of a camera in a tiny car, but by building a complex machine, they were able to capture one of the best long takes that I’ve ever seen.  I’ll also put a link to the scene at the bottom of this blog post, and keep in mind that the scene does contain a spoiler to the film and that some things written in here contain spoilers!

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Clive Owen in “Children of Men” – 2006

Now, why did this scene, in particular, stood out to me? This scene stood out in particular, because of the fantastic cinematography and tension-building. The cinematography in that scene reached that level of goodness because it constantly managed to keep the framing right. Like said before, you’d think this wouldn’t be true, but they managed to do it. The color grading, the shot composition, everything from the scene looked absolutely gorgeous.
The tension-building was also something that I mentioned. This is because the build-up to the action that has yet to come was done brilliantly. Alfonso Cuarón first showed us that Theo and Julian were really close before – we knew this already, but here he explores it a bit more – and he also shows them in quite a relaxed state. He shows us that there could be that tiny bit of joy in this dark futuristic setting. He shows us that they’re friends and that there’s hope for them. But that hope’s immediately crushed when a flaming car roles down the hill, blocks off the road and causes panic to rise. The car alarm starts beeping, which works as the tension-building score on its own: a high monotone pitch, that generates an unsettling atmosphere. Now, because you are more invested with the characters, you are on the edge of your seat, because you don’t want anything to happen to them. You care for them. You don’t want them to die, especially now you thought that there was a possible chance of a better future. Then, terror happens. One loud gunshot drains away all the sound: more tension. From loud noises, we go to silence with just the monotonous beep tone again. Just to bring attention to the contrast again, like before; then: peace to violence; now: loud noises to silence.
But when you think it’s over, when you think you can finally breathe again, the cops arrive as well. Everything seems to be going fine until Luke suddenly shoots them. Bang, bang, both dead. This comes as shock to the audience because you were made to believe that finally, after the things they’ve been through, you can finally take a breather again. Luke asked for the passports of our protagonists, so you’d think that it would just go by, without any problem, but it cost a man’s life. The brilliant part of the scene is also that it doesn’t need any music to build up the tension. It just needs visuals and that’s something that I found very impressive. And that’s why this scene is one of my favorite long takes.

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