Monday, January 3, 2011


Children of Men is one of the most interesting and powerful films that has come out in the new century. Based on the novel by PD James and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, the film is set in 2027, and depicts a world that is in total chaos. War, terrorism, and pollution have rendered most of the world uninhabitable. New York has been nuked. England is the one place where society soldiers on, but it is a police state, where illegal immigrants are caged and put into refugee camps where they are held until deportation or death. The television advertises a suicide drug that you are encouraged to take when you feel the time is right, because of the state of the world, and the fact that England is now overpopulated.

In the first scene we see Theo Faron (Clive Owen) passing through a weeping crowd in a coffee shop. They are crying because Baby Diego the world's youngest person has been murdered. He was 18 years old at death and he was the last person to be born on earth because all of the women are now infertile. He was stabbed to death by a fan after refusing to give an autograph. The television shows images of him throughout his life and talks of how he had difficulty dealing with his celebrity. After Theo exits the shop a bomb goes off. All of this happens within a single hand-held take that drives home the chaos and terror of the world that now exists.

Theo is the common man, apolitical and cynical, he constantly smokes and takes hits from his pint of scotch. His one escape is to go see his old friend Jasper (Michael Caine) who lives in a hideaway in the country with his dogs and cats. Jasper's wife was a photojournalist who is now catatonic after being tortured several years earlier by the government. Theo is a government bureaucrat, but after he is kidnapped by a terror group headed by his former lover Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore), we find out more about his past. Theo and Julian were once activists and lovers and had lost a child together. She wants him to obtain transit papers for her so they can get a young woman move within the country. 

His cousin Nigel works for the government, and in an incredible scene put to the music of KIng Crimson, Theo arrives at the Tate Modern in an attempt to secure the papers. Nigel has been trying to save the world's art. As Theo enters he is confronted with a damaged Michelangelo's David. Picasso's Guernica hangs on the wall behind them as they eat lunch. A float of a pig drifts in the sky above the towers of the museum.

The center of the film is Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) who needs the transit papers because she is the key to the future of mankind. She needs to be delivered to the Human Project, a group that is trying to find a way to keep the dying planet from becoming extinct.

After Theo meets Kee, there is another amazing single take sequence in a car where the group is attacked and a shocking act of violence occurs. It is visceral, kinetic, desperate, and real. 

There is also a beautiful scene in a barn full of cows and milking machines where Kee reveals her secret to Theo and asks him to help her reach the Human Project because he is the only person she can trust.

The entire film has a visual style that immerses the viewer into the chaotic actions that the characters are going through and experiencing. Children of Men presents a future that comments on the present. This world does seem plausible and real and not all that far away. There are references to the Iraq War and the torture at Abu Ghraib, as well as allusions to Nazis and Fascists from the atrocities of the 20th Century. The film does not paint the rebels in a positive light either as there is conflict within the ranks. Evil has infected all aspects of life.

But there is hope and sacrafice as well. After a harrowing scene in a refugee camp where Theo and Kee are surrounded by death and violence they find their way out. The power of life literally stops the war so they can escape. They find their way into a small boat and wait in the mist for the ship from the Human Project. 

Children of Men has an immediacy and power that few films can match. It examines a world of fear and chaos and a possible endgame for mankind, yet it presents a positive light that somehow we will find a way to continue.

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