On the topic of modern film, many will say that today’s directors have, for the most part, lost their touch. In some aspects this is true, but every once in awhile, someone like Alfonso Cuaron comes along and gives birth to a masterpiece such as Children of Men. From start to finish, this narrative has you captivated by its post-apocalyptic setting, documentary-style, and “all-too-real” production.
It takes place in the year 2027, in a future where no child has been born for 18 years. The entire world more or less, lies in ruins except London, where the film takes place. We find this out through propaganda videos that play in buses, cafes, and all around the city. They depict the global destruction, and say, “THE WORLD HAS COLLAPSED” “ONLY BRITAIN SOLDIERS ON”. And “soldiers on” it does. Britain has fallen under martial law and claims to be defending itself from refugees or “fugees”, as they are referred to in the film, from coming into the only place on earth left standing. The protagonist of the story, Theo (played brilliantly by Clive Owen), plays a former political activist, who has become disillusioned by the events surrounding him. Enter Julian, (played by Julianne Moore) Theo’s former lover, and also part of the “uprising” that is brewing. She comes to Theo with a proposition. Escort a young pregnant woman out of the country as quickly as possible, to what is referred to as “The Tomorrow Project”. This seems to be the key to (not to sound overly dramatic) save humanity.
One of the most interesting aspects, is the attention to detail that Cuaron gives to every aspect of the film. It takes place 18 years in the future, and unlike others in the genre, it offers a strikingly realistic look at what the world will be like at that time. Not so much, the infertility part obviously, but the little things, which are appreciated. For example, let’s take 2001 or Blade Runner, these films took place in or around our current time and had flying cars, fully-functioning androids, and other technology that we may not see for another 50 to 100 years. In Children of Men however, all of the cars are still restricted to the ground, people do not have mechanical parts in them, and things are for the most part, the same. There are digital advertisements and newspaper stands, female robotic voices on the buses spewing propaganda, and everything has a slightly more advanced look to it. The focus isn’t so much on the technological changes as it is on the societal ones. Cuaron seems to be trying to send a message to the viewer saying, “this is where our world is headed if we don’t fix things now.”
The film also has what could be the best cinematography I’ve ever seen. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The New World) delivers again with his unique and vivid documentary style. Cuaron substitutes pans for cuts, and it works heavily to his advantage. The camera looms over the shoulder of Clive Owen almost all the way through. Several of the shots go on for five to seven minutes without a single cut, which is quite a feat to accomplish successfully. In several scenes, blood spatters on the camera in the heat of battle and in others, the sun reflects off the lens so beautifully, you forgot your staring at a movie screen. In many ways, it is almost as if you, the viewer, are the cameraman.
It is tough to say now, but Children of Men might be one of the best movies of the decade. I have a feeling it will end up being a classic, five or ten years from now, in the sense of Blade Runner or 12 Monkeys. It is relieving to see a film that has something to say, especially one like this that manages to swim to the surface among the rest of blockbusters that Hollywood pumps out. From its cinematography and editing, to its social commentary and symbolism, Children of Men paints a bleak, realistic view of what possibly lies ahead for the world we live in.