Children of Men Reviews
With all the despair and chaos in the future world in 2027, we still have a tiny sense of hope seeing Kee having the ability of fertility. The movie is very well crafted.
If one scene in Children of Men, more accurately, one shot, isn't being played over a hundred times, dissected, analyzed, sped up, slowed down, played in reverse, and thoroughly deconstucted in film schools right now, there's something fundamentally wrong with film schools.
This uninterrupted take running over 4 minutes is shot in a car with runaway rebels: the driver and Julianne Moore in the front, and Clive Owen, the pregnant woman and another character cramped in the back. The shot begins with Moore and Owen playing games as they motor merrily along a hillside country road to their designation and, after fleeing from a gang of murderous counter-rebels, ends with two cops being shot to death and left on the road.
I'm not sure many movie audiences consciously appreciate the skill and mastery of a long uninterrupted take. There are no edits. There is no room for error. There is no stopping and starting and shooting from various angles, then filtering out unwanted material and tweaking the content, flow and pace in the editing room. It's one, long uninterrupted take. It is an actual unadulterated document of the action. I suppose this effects a kind of documentary realism, which explains why steadycams have been replaced with shakycams. I notice them all the time. When a film has too many cuts in it, I figure there wasn't much patience and confidence shared on the film set. The editor may be trying to save the film. With cutty films there is less risk and challenge because you can shoot the same scene so many times in so many ways and splice them to splinters. Save it in post. The editor is the filmmaker.
The long shot in Children of Men is a work of sheer genius. A single continuous take from inside a car driving down a country road starts off with Moore and Owen playing a game: blowing and catching a ping-pong ball in each other's mouths. This game sets up and illustrates how risky and challenging the rest of the shot will be, bordering on plain recklessness. The playfulness will be contrasted by the ensuing terror. If the ball bounced off their teeth it would have been easy enough to cut and restart until they got it right, since it was only a minute into the shot. Neat trick but now comes the crazy magic. Cue the flames as a burning truck rolls down the hill to cut them off. The driver slams to a halt and reverses as an army of screaming militants emerge from the woods, throwing rocks, beating sticks, and smashing through Moore's window. Moore throws up her hands to protect herself from flying shards of glass. A Molotov cocktail smashes and flames up on the hood. The shot continues while they drive in reverse. A motorcycle breaks out from the swarm, buzzing towards them, firing a gun shot which breaks through the windshield causing Moores's blood to splatter. We see she's been shot in the throat. Owen covers her to stop the bleeding. As the motorcycle speeds closer, Owen throws open his door to precisely knock one rider off the back of the bike, hurling to the ground. The motorbike crashes against the car and we see the bike and the other rider spin in the air and hit and bounce off the ground. The shot continues as the windshield cracks open and the car turns around to drive forward. Moore's bleeding can't be contained and she dies. They are pursued by the two policemen who pull them over at gun point. The driver steps out and shoots both cops dead. Owen scrambles out of the car (with the cameraman) to scold the killer. They drive off into the distance leaving behind two dead cops (and the cameraman).
WOW! All this in one take. Four fabulous minutes. It's kind of choppy and the timing misfires here and there, but it's still an incredible and incredibly exciting work of filmmaking. I haven't researched how this amazing shot was pulled off because I don't care to deconstruct the beauty and mystery out of it. The POV is always in the car with five people (six, including the cameraman). Not a big car yet the camera manages to move and circle around freely within a confined interior. Even if this was shot with the finest, smallest digital video camera available at the time, it still needed an operator. A really skinny small kid perhaps? This long take stands out in the movie. In its entirety, the movie is worth watching, and for this shot alone deserves a perfect score. I challenge you to watch it only once.
There is another uninterrupted shot of note in the film. Owen and the pregnant woman enter a dingy old room, Owen pays off the provider and proceeds to wash his hands as the woman lays back on a beat up mattress, and then as Owen coaches the woman, he sterilizes his hands and handles the baby when it emerges from the womb, then rests it on the mother's belly, umbilical cord and all. One take, 3 1/2 minutes. This time there would be no second tries. There are no tricks here. The fiction is blurred. Clive Owen is the midwife who delivers the newborn.
(Though a wandering close-up betrays the baby might have been planted off-camera.)