It is 2027 and women have mysteriously become infertile. The world is on the brink of collapse except for Britain, which is still holding itself together. Former activist Theo (Clive Owen) is contacted by his ex-wife (Julianne Moore), who is the leader of a political rebellion group called The Fishes. She asks him to help transport a girl named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to a boat, as she is miraculously the first woman to get pregnant in 18 years.
Alfonso Cuaròn is probably best known for Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban, regarded to be the point in the series where it started to get good, and for the supremely entertaining and exciting Gravity, for which he won an Oscar, but it is Children of Men that is his true masterpiece. A political action thriller, the film is thought provoking, intelligent, entertaining, exciting and disturbing, and is unique in a genre that needs more diversity and thought.
An adaptation of the P.D. James novel of the same name, Children of Men starts with a big what if? And runs with it. The setting is a slightly futuristic but disturbingly plausible one. As the world has started tearing itself apart under the pressure of worldwide infertility and the impending end of mankind, with only Britain still barely holding it together. As usual fear has manifested into hate, and the government has a zero tolerance policy towards illegal immigrants and refugees, detaining them and deporting or killing them. This creates distressing but plausible images of refugees held in cages by armed guards and attack dogs, and immigrant camps the size of small towns; a society where refugees and immigrants aren’t even treated like second-class citizens, but like animals. This situation has also created violent political groups, fighting against the vicious government regime. With the current refugee crisis and political climate all over the world, Children of Men is still a hugely pertinent and relevant film.
The camera in Children of Men, overseen by Oscar winning Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, moves around with the characters, placing you firmly in the action, the camera very rarely moving above head height. It gives the film an almost documentary style, as it moves with the characters, occasionally turning away to focus on something else, which builds a bigger picture of the world, whether it be a mother crying while she holds the dead body of her child in her arms or an immigrant pleading from inside a cage. These are images that are shown on news programmes almost nightly and the film puts you right there in the thick of it, confronting you with them. The camera always retains its focus and purpose, there is no motion sickness inducing shaky-cam here, creating exciting and kinetic sequences. If you have seen Gravity then you will not be a stranger to Cuaròn’s use of a long takes and Children of Men features several stand out shots. An attack on the party as they travel, shot entirely within the confines of a car, and an extended sequence shot inside a prison camp that is being torn apart due to gun fighting, are astonishing and exhilarating sequences that stick in the mind long after.
Children of Men is a very underrated and brilliant film. A political action thriller that both excites and makes you think, it is the filmmakers working at the top of their talent. If you haven’t seen it, rectify that immediately.
CHILDREN OF MEN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ALFONSO CUARÒN / SCREENPLAY: ALFONSO CUARÒN, TIMOTHY J. SEXTON, DAVID ARATA, MARK FERGUS, HAWK OSTBY / STARRING: CLIVE OWEN, JULIANNE MOORE, MICHAEL CAINE, CLARE-HOPE ASHITEY, CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / RELEASE DATE: 28TH MARCH