Film Review: Children of Men (2006)

I know for a fact I've reviewed this film previously. I just have no clue where the review is hosted. I don't know if I ghostwrote about it for someone else or published it on a site that doesn't exist anymore. In the year 2027, the human race is dying. The last new baby, born in 2009, has just died and the last surviving stable nation, England, is struggling with massive immigration issues. Government worker Theo Feron (Clive Owen) is contacted by his ex-wife Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore), the leader of a pro-refugee movement, to help transport Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a young African refugee, out of England. Theo learns that Kee is about to give birth and Julian's movement is trying to get her to a sanctuary called The Human Project to hopefully save humanity.

Director Alfonso Cuaron takes a very tricky screenplay and turns it into something breathtaking. Children of Men is filled with political, theological, and philosophical allusions that are mashed together into disturbing new forms that seem all too possible. Combined with the apocalyptic setting and unexpected action sequences, the film could easily have been a pseudo-scientific mess. It's not. It's organic, shocking, and thoughtful.

The production design in Children of Men is striking. Since it was only set some twenty years in the future, the technological advances are downplayed quite a bit. Computers, television screens, and brightly lit animated billboards float in midair while people still drive regular cars and dress in recognizable business and casual attire.

Where the visual scheme really stands out is in transforming settings into grungy desolate landscapes. The sky is filled with a thick coating of putrid smog. Buildings have all become uneven grays and browns. Graffiti lines every wall and street corner in the city. Even the forest is cast in a strange green haze that can't possibly be healthy. The eye is inundated with a constant flow of information that paints the political and social state of the world in tiny strokes. It builds quickly to a vague understanding of what is happening, even if nothing ever quite explains how the human race just stopped giving birth.

Perhaps the film's greatest strength is the action sequences. They are raw and unexpected. They catch the audience off guard when we're most vulnerable or least expecting it. It's not the glossy action of a big Hollywood picture; it's dark and grounded. I believe it when this building explodes or that person gets shot at because it's not over the top at all. When you think about it, having action that grounded in a science fiction film is pretty extraordinary. It advances the plot and characters in ways that more distracting effect sequences could never accomplish. The film takes its time to let the audience breathe and respond to the actors onscreen.

Children of Men is a rather dreary film. It's powerful but somber. It's the kind of film you have to be ready to watch. When you are ready, it's worth it.

Rating: 8/10

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