Fans of end-of-times movies (of which I am a big one), great news – this is the best one yet.
Alfonso Cuarón’s (Y tu mamá también, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) latest movie starts off with a nifty premise. It’s the near future. Women are infertile. There are no more children, and no prospects for procreation. The youngest people on the planet are 18. Schools lay fallow in disrepair. Nations are collapsing. Britain operates as a police state, and has closed its borders to all immigrants – only British citizens are allowed to live there. Illegals are rounded up and sent who-knows-where; they are badly treated. Radicals violently protest this injustice, and terrorism is a daily fact of life. You risk your life simply getting a cup of coffee. The end is nigh, the end is nigh!
Against this backdrop, we get both a superb action plot and a high-impact human drama, that rarest of motion pictures that operates on two levels at the same time. I shall reveal no more and leave the pleasures of the intricate story to the viewer. It’s expertly directed by Cuarón, who also co-wrote a brilliant screenplay. The genius of the movie is in the pacing – it starts out fairly sedate with an interesting examination of the world as it exists at that time, and gradually ratchets up the tension until by the end we can hardly stand it any more. The characters are deep and memorable, the dialogue is rich and natural, and the machinations of the plot are unpredictable and pack a great payoff. The acting (Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine among many others) is nothing short of immersive. Our “hero” is no Superman, and he spends most of the movie just doing the best he can, which makes him very appealing. Filmed with a verite style, the visual effects are utterly seamless. They’re so well integrated you can’t even tell what’s an effect and what’s not. This is no Hollywood picture; there is no melodrama and the camera doesn’t flinch from anything, nor does the script ever resort to cliche or convention. In fact, quite early on, it clearly signals that anything goes. The cinematography is top-notch, easily the best I’ve ever seen in this genre. The soundtrack is suitably downbeat and never gets in the way.
Like I said, best “world apocolypse” movie yet. The whole production is triple-A, and a major artistic achievement for Cuarón and his crew.