A bomb rips through a coffee shop, but the death of more than a dozen people in a London terrorist action isn’t the lead story on the news. What is news is the announcement of the death of the world’s youngest person- an 18-year old boy.
Welcome to the year 2027, a dismal place where a mysterious plague nearly two decades earlier has rendered the human race infertile. Police in riot gear patrol the streets. Xenophobia has risen to a point where illegal immigrants are aggressively hunted and publicly caged before being deported. Armed gangs roam the countryside, attacking unwary travelers. Society is fracturing and is on the verge of collapsing completely.
Through this nightmare-ish world moves Theo (Clive Owen), a low level bureaucrat trying to get his day without succumbing to the hazards of what has become everyday life. A former activist, Theo thinks he has left that life behind him until he is contacted by his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore), who asks him to help forge some travel papers so she can smuggle an immigrant, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), out of the country. But when Julian’s plan goes wrong, Theo finds himself in the role of Kee’s protector, a role made all the more important when he discovers that Kee is the first woman on Earth to be pregnant in 18 years.
On its surface, Children Of Men is perhaps the bleakest portrait of the near future since Brazil (1985) or Blade Runner (1982). But Children Of Men isn’t a dark satire or science-fiction-laced techno-thriller. It isn’t concerned much with the mechanics of the infertility plague or why women have been able to conceive. Such concerns are regulated to the passing references, with the exception of one a monolog from a former midwife. Instead, we are presented with a pessimistic tale of survival and man’s surrender to its baser instincts.
Needless to say, this film is definite tonal shift away from director Alfonso Cuaron’s last film, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004), but he is definitely in top form here. Cuaron has created a danger filled world and uses several long, uninterrupted takes to immerse the audience into this reality. Technically impressive, these segments deglamorize the violence and present it in its true raw, ugly form. While changing camera technology is making these types of long shots more commonplace, its use here pays off in a moment towards the end of the film where the violence is interrupted that powerfully pays off the film.
Interestingly, the baby mirrors the story of the recently released Bible movie The Nativity, where an infants’ birth represents hope and salvation for the world. Children Of Men does’’t slam you over the head with parallel, but leaves it there for the viewer to discover on their own.