The 2006 film Children of Men is hailed as the best science fiction movie of the 2000s. It paved the way to what good Sc-fi can do in a post Matrix world.
Set in a dystopian London in the ever approaching 2027, director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Roma) created Children of Men from the 1996 novel of the same name. Rotten Tomatoes has given the film an 8.4 and listed it 13th overall in 100 films from the 21st century by 117 critics around the world. While the film was a commercial flop, essentially breaking even on it’s estimated budget of $73 million, it was beloved by critics and fans of the genre as a realistic and visceral visual experience.
The film features Clive Owen as Theo Faron, a former political activist who lost his son and is now depressed and living in a world that is slowly dying. Humanity has gone inexplicably sterile. In the opening scene, the youngest human alive is announced dead. Theo’s ex wife Julian, played by Julianne Moore, is still active in a political group and asks Theo to do a job for them. They want to escort a young immigrant out of the country. Kee, the illegal immigrant excellently played by Clare-Hope Ashitey, turns out to be pregnant, the first that any of them know of at all. She becomes a pawn in the political game going on in the group Julian is leading.
Eventually Julian is killed and the group is usurped by a more radical chapter seeking to use this pregnancy as a tool to incite and raise an army against the British government. Theo takes it upon himself to keep this baby safe and proceeds to take Kee on the run across a broken the english countryside. They eventually winding up in a refugee camp in war torn Bexhill-on-Sea where the British government is struggling to control an angry refugee population looking for a place to die a nice, peaceful life. Theo and Kee eventually make it to their destination, a ship run by a group called The Humanity Project, who are known for trying to find a way to keep humanity alive. Theo dies from wounds received on their insane journey as they reach the ship.
Gritty, Cinematic Style & Plenty of Long Takes
The film has an exciting visual style. With several long-take action scenes that appear to be shot in one continuous take. Some actually are, but several shots are over several days pieced together with genius editing and CGI.
The one that grabs you almost immediately is the scene of the bombing in the coffee shop mere moments after Clive Owen buys his coffee and exits it. It’s a tense, brutal moment as people are bloodily stumbling and there’s yelling and confusion in this long, scanning shot that seems to walk through the rubble and back to Theo.
Another long-take happens as the group transporting Theo and Key are ambushed in the english countryside. Julian is killed while several armed men on motorcycles ride alongside the car trying to hijack them. The camera keeps looking into the car and then spinning around the windows showing what’s going on everywhere seemingly all at once while never cutting to the next shot. These shots are talked about and beloved in cinema as they are incredibly difficult to shoot and take weeks of preparation and planning before you can even get into it and shoot it.
Spaced-Out Michael Caine
So, we have to talk about Sir Michael Caine. In a film burdened by violence, dystopian imagery and cynicism for the fate of humanity, Caine’s character is like a refreshing dose of levity. He plays Jasper, an old friend of Theo’s. In the film, Jasper is hellbent on growing cannabis, smuggling it into refugee camps, telling bad jokes.
Hell, before being murdered by the activist group, he tells them to pull his finger. It’s almost like he is doing it on purpose, attempting to lighten up a truly darker world. That’s another fantastic example of hope. He looks on the bright side of life even when humanity itself is dying. It’s a great contrast to Theo’s bummer attitude at the top of the film.
Everyone’s Forgotten What A Baby Sounds Like
One of the most gripping moments in the film is after Kee has given birth to her baby. She has been dragged away into a building during a battle between the British army, refugees and the activist group. Theo enters the building being turned into swiss cheese by the flying bullets of all parties.
He finds Kee and confronts the new leader of the activist group. As Theo and Kee begin to leave, the baby suddenly begins to cry. The sound of the crying stops everyone regardless of team affiliation. Everyone in the battle becomes entranced and lower their weapons as Theo and Kee move through the crowd to escape the chaos. It is breathtaking. As they walk, off the battle resumes with an explosion and all sides go back to fighting. Realizing that there will be a future and what they are fighting for is even more important now.
Hope in a Desperate World
Obviously, the theme of hope in a desperate world is prevalent throughout. It is an honest statement on immigration and how we judge a society. Theo gets the forged papers he needs from a cousin who is in charge of saving the art of Europe for the British Government.
There’s an obvious statement in his lavish life while the world is collapsing that speaks to the income inequality of the world. Children of Men is one of those haunting, tragically beautiful films. It shows a world that becomes a little less fiction and little more prediction. The idea that this couldn’t happen feels out of reach at this point. It becomes harder and harder to believe that if you took away the hope of future from humanity that suddenly everyone wouldn’t go a little mad. That broken, mad world is the one Children of Men shows us and it’s an amazing movie worth watching.
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