Children of Men - Review
Review by Richard Goodwin
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Bonus Features: Men Under Attack featurette.
In a nutshell: Bleak vision of the future in Alfonso Cuaron’s adaptation of PD James Children of Men.
What we say: The year is 2027 and no children have been born for 18 years leaving humankind facing extinction.
While the world tears itself apart Britain stands alone shutting its borders and hunting down all immigrants and placing them in huge refugee camps.
The world’s youngest person has just died leaving the population shocked. Amidst all this we find Theo (Clive Owen) a broken man drinking his way through life to numb himself to all that’s going on around him.
Theo is contacted by his ex wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who is now a leader of a terrorist group calling themselves ‘Fishes’. Julian needs Theo’s help in getting a young girl out of the country.
Theo soon finds out the girl is pregnant with the first child in 18 years and everyone wants to use the child for their own ends. A desperate race to get the girl to the coast ensues, where they will meet with the Human Project – a group devoted to saving mankind.
Cuaron’s film is audacious, tense, exciting, blackly comic and at times moving. At the heart of the film is Clive Owen’s Theo – a man who has given up on life and has no hope left. Owen fits this role like a glove, his understated performance giving a frail heart to the film.
Owen is backed up by an excellent supporting cast. Moore as Theo’s ex and Ejiofor as a terrorist leader both give good performances. But it’s Michael Caine who steals the show as Theo’s pot smoking hippy friend Jasper. Like all good films its important that you care about the characters enough to be concerned when they are in danger and to this end the cast succeed.
The film is loaded with black comedy, in particular a farcical escape sequence with a car that just wont start! There are also some memorable set pieces including an attack on the car transporting them to the coast and the final sequence set in a war torn refugee camp. Both use just one hand held camera and are one continuous shot, which ups the tension a notch as the camera puts you right in the thick of the action.
It’s the quieter moments, however, that really stand out. A scene where Jasper is explaining to the others about Theo and Julian losing their child as Theo listens in is deeply moving.
Cuaron does a fantastic job of realising a future Britain, balancing off the sci-fi elements with a grey, gritty, lived in look. In fact, Cauron’s Britain of 2027 looks more like Britain 1977. This works brilliantly in that it all looks and seems believable, no CGI Star Wars-esq cityscapes here. The aforementioned action sequences are also masterfully shot and a genuine technical achievement.
The film has plenty of relevant things to say, in particular the persecution of immigrants, and like all good sci-fis it poses worrying questions about what could happen with the direction society is going in. In fact the film comes off ultimately as a comment on the self destructive nature of man and ends on an appropriately bleak enigmatic note.
Children of Men showcases a director approaching the top of his game. It’s a rare film nowadays that engages both the heart and the mind and it’s gripping, moving, funny and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
At times bold and brilliant, this film is highly recommended and arguably one of the finest films of 2006.
Running time: 1hr 45mins