Children of Men & Million Dollar Baby

Movie that I love #3:

Children of Men

Oh my goodness is this movie heavy.  This was probably the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen in my life.  And I loved it.

For those of you who don’t know, Children of Men is based on a novel by P.D. James.  It’s set sometime in the near future (as in the next twenty years or so), in a world where women for one reason or another stopped being able to have babies.  For 18 years nobody has had a child.

This movie does a lot of things well, but probably the one thing that it does the best is the atmosphere it creates.  The world the movie creates looks and feels uncomfortably familiar, like this really is what our society will look like in 20 years.  Also, the cinematography is perfectly suited to the story.  There are a number of scenes that are shot in long takes, some stretching as far as 7 minutes without a cut.  This puts the viewer directly in the events taking place, and makes us feel less like spectators.  In a world where every already feels uncomfortably familiar, the camera work brings an extra level of intensity.  Watching this movie in theaters, I didn’t realize it but I was clenching my armrest so tightly that my hand cramped.  It really is that good.

Also, the acting.  It’s not amazing, but Clive Owen brings a lot of humanity to his role and underplays the main character very well.  He feels like a real person, which augments the reality of the movie.

The ending of this movie is brilliant, too.  Rather than a true catharsis or a warm fuzzy happy ending, we are given an ambiguous ending.  While dissatisfying to a certain extent, it occurred to me as the credits rolled that the ending really fit what the movie was trying to say.

Watch this movie.  Just not alone.

Movie I Hate #3:

Million Dollar Baby

Massive, massive spoiler alert on this whole review.

Million Dollar Baby follows the story of Maggie, a normal everyday waitress who’s been deal kind of a raw deal by life.  One day she decides out of left field that she wants to try boxing.  Clint Eastwood reluctantly agrees to train her.  And lo and behold, she does really really well at boxing, even getting to the point of a title bout.

Three quarters of the way through Million Dollar Baby, I loved it.  Clint Eastwood is a great actor, Morgan Freeman was exceptional, even though I’m not a Hillary Swank fan she really is quite talented and Jay Baruchel had a small role.  The characters all have depth, the direction is well done and the story familiar enough to make it comfortable without being run-of-the-mill.

And then three quarters of the way through the movie, it all goes downhill.  An overly competitive and cruel opponent hits Maggie with a cheap shot.  She falls and breaks her neck and is paralyzed from the neck down.  While in the hospital, Maggie decides that she doesn’t want to live anymore and tries to commit suicide by biting her tongue in half, hoping to bleed to death.  After grappling with the decision, Clint Eastwood’s character gives Maggie a fatal shot of adrenaline, thereby fulfilling her desire to die.

So why do I have a problem with this ending?

The integrity of the characters was sacrificed for sake of making a political point about euthanasia.  Maggie’s fight in the ring was a metaphor for how she had been fighting her whole life.  She was born premature, and had to fight to stay alive.  A string of poor decisions put her in bad situations, but she kept fighting.  That tenacity she gained from fighting through life was what made her a good boxer.  She just refused to give up, refused to back down.

Until she was paralyzed, that is.  The movie tells us that Maggie wants to “go out fighting”.  By committing suicide.  What?  According to Million Dollar Baby, giving up and dying is “fighting”.  How the hell does that make sense?  Suicide isn’t heroic.  I can understand depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of being paralyzed, but I don’t get why the movie tries to make it seem the heroic and “fighting” thing to do.

In fact, I found that quite offensive.  I recently watched Murderball, a very good documentary about a number of paraplegics and quadriplegics and how they dealt with their handicap.  What they struggled with, what they went through and ultimately their success in life despite the circumstances they were given.  THAT IS FIGHTING.  Suicide is not.

Million Dollar Baby is a good movie.  It’s very well made, and I know the Academy loved it.  But the movie is an artistic failure.  It completes changes who the characters are specifically to make a political point.  Tragic.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.

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