Michael Caine

March 13, 2013

London Calling: Children of Men

Children of Men – Captivating

Lately in film, especially futuristic sci-fi fare, the preferred city of devastation is London.  It used to be that Godzilla would stomp Japan into oblivion, but of course we all know that giant lizards bred out of nuclear irresponsibility is completely far-fetched, right?  But putting fantasy away, London has been a hub the past decade or so for apocalyptic visions of the future.  From Rage viruses to an infertility pandemic, I’m not sure “Keep Calm and Carry On” would be enough for even London’s strongest citizens to get behind.  This brings me to 2006’s “Children of Men” one of the most captivating sci-fi films to be released in recent memory.
Here’s the scoop; we visit London in the not too distant future where there hasn’t been a reported new birth in nearly 18 years.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the youngest person in the world, lovingly named Baby Diego, has just been murdered.  With the world in mourning, we follow happy-go-lucky Theo, played by Clive Owen.  Theo is the type of guy that loves to get high with his hippy friend Jaspar and get kidnapped by a terrorist group called “The Fishes” led by his former activist wife, Julian, played by Julianne Moore.  The plot thickens when it’s discovered that Theo is carrying some precious cargo, namely a baby in the belly of a young refugee girl named Kee.  With the government, crooked cops, and members of the terrorist group hot on his heels, Theo has no choice but to protect Kee and try and deliver her to The Human Project, a mysterious group researching why humanity become infertile so many years ago.

“Children” went largely unnoticed during its theatrical run, which is odd for how good this film really is.  The acting is spot on, the setting couldn’t feel more real, and the message is relatively universal.  Sure, there are some preachy moments, and even some of the imagery and names are obvious, case in point, the young girl Kee, (even though it’s technically pronounced “chi”) who just might be the “key” to civilization’s survival.  But those are minor quibbles.

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who some might know for “Y Tu Mama Tambien” or to an even wider audience as the director the best Harry Potter film installment “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”  Some might disagree with that assessment of the “Harry Potter” franchise, but it was the moment that the series went from light-hearted and childish to dark, brooding, and serious.
Cuaron lends that trademark style to “Children” and creates a dystopian London where all hope seems to be lost, refugees are treated like Jews during World War II, and ethnic tensions are slowly coming to a head.  With all of that being said, Cuaron is still able to capture small glimmers of hope in a hopeless world, and some humanity in some of the more monstrous characters.  But the highlights of the film revolve around the long take action sequences which last upwards of 6 minutes.  Even though it has been debunked that these scenes are not one long take, the fact remains that these scenes highlight the film and create the most memorable moments in “Children.”

Despite the fact “Children” was critically praised, the fact it didn’t bank more at the box office was a crime in and of itself.  It’s also a movie I’m always shocked people have never seen; at that moment I slap them in the face, hand them the DVD, and bid them Godspeed.

Fun Fact:  In the Bexhill block scene, Theo can be seen wearing a London 2012 Olympics fleece jacket.

September 15, 2012

Sleuth

SLICK

Sleuth is SLICK.  Sleuth is stylish.  Sleuth is surprising on many levels.  It is the ultimate game of cat and mouse with stakes that are always fun to explore cinematically.  Adultery.  Revenge.  Murder.  You know, the classics.

The first thing that grabs you when watching Sleuth is the look.  Director Kenneth Branagh does a marvelous job structuring the set ups and set pieces.  He’s more the directer of Hamlet here than the director of Thor.  Haris Zambarloukos’s cinematography is very clever, with specific visual elements that make every shot interesting.  This is a huge treat for the avid cinephile, and a huge help for the antsy.  I say this because Sleuth is based on a play.  And that means that it is a very dialogue heavy film.  However, the dialogue between stars Michael Caine and Jude Law is excellent.  Sorkinesque.  The late great Harold Pinter’s words and conversations form a maze of clues, hints, and misdirections that always lead us to fun places.  

Branagh can be given a pat on the bum for getting great performances from the aforementioned Caine and Law.  Michael Caine has never been better.  Those of you who only know him as Chris Nolan’s Alfred….SHAME ON YOU!  You should have known him first as Alfie….or Carter…or Lawrence.  He gives those that did a reminder of how great an actor he is.  And is there anyone out there who can legitimately question the talents of Jude Law?  Love him or hate him, his ranging body of work and performances in them are undeniably solid.  A fact that doesn’t change here.

I would be remiss in not mentioning a comparison to the original 1972 Sleuth with Sir Laurence Olivier and a younger Michael Caine in the Jude Law role.  The easy answer is that the original is better.  Of course its better.  It has Sir Laurence F*#KING Olivier for Christ sakes!  However, watching Caine swap roles in the newer version and seeing what he does with it gives the newer film value.  Not to mention, seeing modern day filmmaking techniques used to do things the original could not.

I’m sure people were aware when Sleuth came out in theaters, but few went to see it.  That is a real shame because films with style AND substance need to be seen more in Hollywood so they can be made more in Hollywood.  Give it a butcher’s…then tell me I’m wrong.

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