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Heroes of the Zeroes: Children of Men

by on March 3, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“Children of Men”
Rated R
2006

Religious Hindu rituals often end with a recitation of “Shanti, Shanti, Shanti” — peace prayers intended to remove obstacles in physical, divine and internal realms. So did Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” as rigorous and violent as religious discourse can get.

Bloody and unsparing, Cuaron’s renegade adaptation of P.D. James’ novel frighteningly detailed a dying world and the flailing final gasps of its inhabitants. And yet, its bleak road led to a cathartically joyous destination — a story of persistent hope and meaningful sacrifice perfect for a 2006 Christmas Day release.

In a world of global infertility, the first stomach swollen with pregnancy in years belongs to young refugee Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), whose unlikely protector is Theo (Clive Owen), a weary former revolutionary.

Their aversion of those who’d betray them en route to a makeshift nativity was rife with virtuoso filmmaking technique and tension worth talking about forever. A countryside ambush never turns away from advancing danger. A farm escape becomes a textbook example of silent suspense. And Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” clenches fists around the nerves during a perilous run through a hellish refugee camp.

In one of its many reflective moments, all that mankind had survived for lived on in a frightened newborn’s wail — delivered as the screeching-halt sound it should be in a world of anarchy.

For all its fury, “Children of Men’s” grace distinguished itself the most — an all-encompassing embrace of humanity, community and perseverance and an optimistic ending that didn’t feel at all like a cheat.