Children of Men is a gripping and bleak apocalyptic sci-fi film set in a not so distant fascist Britain. In this chaotic future people have lost the ability to pro-create and terrorism is rife, the police state is evident everywhere as immigrants are rounded up and forcibly deported and mankind´s last hope lies with a young pregnant girl who is struggling not to fall into the wrong hands.
The central character, Theo Faron (Clive Owen), works in a boring ministry job and the stunning opening sees him narrowly escape a terrorist bombing in central London. Theo uses his near death experience as an excuse to take some time off and goes to visit his old friend Jasper Palmer (Michael Caine). Jasper is a cheerful but cynical old hippy who lives in a secret cabin in the woods and grows pot. Upon returning to the city Theo is kidnapped and inducted into a plot to smuggle a girl under the noses of the authorities. He is enlisted by Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore) an old student activist friend but it doesn´t take long for all hell to break loose and Theo is forced on the run from both the police and the terrorist group which grabbed him.
The film is set in 2027 in Britain. It seems the outside world has become a dangerous place but Britain remains free, at least so says the propaganda which is publicly blasted everywhere. There have been no births since 2009 and consequently tensions have risen, it appears martial law is in effect as the authorities mercilessly hunt down immigrants and take them to detention centres to be tortured, killed or if they are lucky deported. The film is based on a 1993 book by British author P.D. James.
The visuals in this film are nothing short of breathtaking. The vision of a near future Britain is fantastically well realised, advances have been tagged onto existing services so the world portrayed here is very recognisable and this adds to the reality. This is a grungy Orwellian vision packed with satirical digs at an increasingly controlling government. This is the kind of world that V forVendetta should have been set in.
The direction from Alfonso Cuaron is nothing short of brilliant. His mesmerising camera work features long flowing shots which blend seamlessly through the action. Despite the depravity and desperation evident, much of the action is simply beautiful and it is clear Cuaron got to know Britain very well to capture such an impression. The electric pace and perfectly choreographed action will keep you transfixed for the full 109 minutes.
The cast is also very good. Clive Owen is the central character Theo and he plays the character in his usual cold and subdued fashion. Theo has given up the fight in many ways but when it is thrust upon him so directly he reacts in the only way he can. Michael Caine provides a bit of warmth and comic relief as the old hippy Jasper. Julianne Moore is typically excellent as the leader of the terrorist group and there are a few cameos such as Peter Mullan as the gruff and pragmatic soldier Syd.
The plot is a little ropy in places though the basic premise is very good but this film really delivers on the action front. There is some very impressive camera work and the visceral feel of scenes such as the first car attack as they drive through the forest is deeply impressive and affecting.
Children of Men is a frighteningly realistic vision which easily surpassed my expectations. It is a beautiful piece of film-making which is both nerve wracking and exhilarating to behold.