And we continue with this series of 47 moments in film that I love. (Why 47?) I am almost not 47 anymore, so I should really get these done. For #40, we are going to move quite far away from the comedy / musical tones that we have been hanging out in for a while.
Children of Men (2006)
In a dystopian future in which no children have been born for a generation, cynical Theo Faron is tasked to help transport the a young lady with a secret across a treacherous landscape…
Theo is in a car, traveling across the British countryside, with a collection of other characters: an illegal immigrant, Kee (the girl being transported, whose secret Theo doesn’t yet know), Miriam (an older woman helping to look after Kee), Luke (a young revolutionary), and Julian, who is Theo’s ex-wife and a political activist who for some reason is determined that Kee should reach safety. But the world of this film is dangerously unstable, with terrorism, lawlessness and police brutality common, and dangers await around every corner…
Theo wakes up from a nap after a long run of driving, and at first the mood in the car is light-hearted and jovial. Julian even plays a game with Theo where they blow a ping-pong from one mouth to other across the moving vehicle. But then, suddenly a flaming derelict car rolls down a hill and blocks their path. Armed gunman emerge from the woods, some on foot, some on motorcycle. Luke attempts to drive away, but two masked men on a motorbike pursue them and shoot Julian. The car speeds away from the fracas while Theo attempts to stop Julian’s bleeding, and eventually they are pulled over some policemen. To Theo’s shock, Luke shoots and kills the police officers before making their final escape.
The scene is brutal, intense and violent, which also describe the whole film, but what makes it really impressive is that the viewer experiences the entire thing in one continuous visual take. The camera moves in and out of the car as necessary, but never cuts in its depiction of the action. Thus, we experience a moment that goes abruptly from fairly normal (which is unusual, given the circumstances) to confusing, terrifying, and utterly horrific, all in the same way the characters do.
The reality is that the scene was actually a blending of several takes, but this bit of behind the scenes trivia doesn’t take away from the power of the scene. All the performances are good, but top billed Clive Owen (as Theo) and Julianne Moore (as Julian) are particularly engaging, and it’s reasonably shocking to see Julian killed off at this point in the story. The bullet she takes is clearly fatal, but like the characters, we are hoping against hope that she might somehow be saved, even while she bleeds out during the car chase.
Julian dies, and is buried on the side of the road somewhere. It’s only later that Theo learns Kee’s secret–that she is the first pregnant woman in a generation. This is followed by the revelation that Luke orchestrated Julian’s death to use Kee for his own political purposes, and Theo finds himself once again on the run.
Later, there’s an even longer tracking shot which is also highly impressive, but somehow the effect is not as powerful as with this one.