"An excellent sci fi with one foot planted firmly in reality"
Based on the novel of the same name by PD James, Children of Men is the third film by the talented and versatile Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también & Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). It is a gritty sci fi thriller set only 20 years or so in the future, a time where women have become infertile and the human race is facing extinction in around 60 years – as one piece of graffiti in the film puts it ‘The future is a thing of the past’.Clive Owen plays Theo, a disillusioned London based office worker whose depression after a failed marriage and death of their only son fits in with an equally disenchanted city where news has just broken that the youngest person in the world (18 years old) has just died. Theo’s wife Julian (Julianne Moore), who heads an alleged terrorist organization, pays him an unexpected visit to ask for his assistance with obtaining transit papers for an illegal refugee named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who her group needs to escort to safety. Initially he is not interested but when 5000 pounds is offered he soon comes around to the idea.
Theo manages to obtain papers through a family contact but they come with the condition that he needs to be the refugee’s escort. Soon after Theo is thrown into a dangerous plot that involves escorting Kee to the coast to put her in the care of a mysterious organization called the Human Project. Kee is a young female refugee of African descent who may well hold the key to the survival of the human race. She is very precious cargo that many people, including the government, would be very keen to get their hands on.
We learn from a news report early in the film that Britain is the last remaining civilization that has not been thrown into chaos, but it sure is a long way from being a utopia. Instead it is more like a military state where refuges are rounded up like animals and held in detention centres that are like a cross between Nazi Germany and what we have seen in recent years from Abu Ghraib. It is for this reason that transporting a refugee across the country is an incredibly risky affair that could result in harsh penalties.
One of the many factors that make Children of Men a great film is the fact that Cuarón has not gone over the top with the technology aspect as many futuristic films have a tendency to do. This, combined with a chillingly realistic vision as to where current politics might take us, makes the world within Children of Men seem plausible and scarily, a world very much within reach. The movie is shot in a washed out monotone that suits both the gritty landscape and the depressed mood of its inhabitants.
It is also a well paced film that balances the drama and action very successfully. It even remembers to throw in a bit of comedy here and there so that the gloom of the subject matter does not weigh down too heavily on the audiences shoulders. These comic touches mainly come from Michael Caine’s marijuana harvesting hippie who lives ‘off the grid’ in a secret woodland hideout and considers Aphex Twin to be Zen music. Clive Owen is excellent in Children of Men as he transforms from a depressed soul to a passionate man with a purpose, as is the rest of the cast with notable performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Claire-Hope AshiteyChildren of Men is a powerful and provocative piece of filmmaking where Cuarón remains faithful to the source but also raises questions about the current political climate and the effect is quite haunting. This is an action film with brains and a sci fi with its feet planted somewhere very close to reality.