Britflix: Children of Men
Dystopia sci-fi is an ever popular mainstay in British fiction with novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four
and A Brave New World
being published and set in the nation. One movie that is loosely based on a novel that takes both a top-down and bottom-up approach is Alfonso Cuarón's brilliant Children of Men
In 2027, humanity is on the brink of extinction: no child has been born for 18 years and most of the world has fallen into anarchy and chaos. Britain limps on by having a authoritarian government which has brought in draconian laws, including on immigration. Social unrest and terrorism are rife all across the country.
Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is a former activist turned government civil servant who has gone beyond caring. His only relief is meeting with his old hippy friend, Jasper (Michael Caine), a man who grows cannabis and is an eternal optimist. Theo is brought back into the political arena by his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who leads an organization called The Fishes. Soon, Theo ends up being thrust into a mission to save Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a young African woman who is the first woman to be pregnant in a generation. Theo being unable to trust anyone, he ends up being the only person who can take Kee and her unborn baby to the mystical organization, The Human Project and possibly save humanity.
Children of Men
is a wonderfully stark, brutal movie that takes the most realistic route possible about showing the breakdown of society. Cuarón creates a bleak future as we see it through one man's eyes, as terrorist attacks are regular, the outpouring of public grief when the world's youngest person dies, the use of propaganda and various groups that form as society becomes more fractured. Cuarón also brings small touches to the world to flesh it out, little things such as the word 'fuges' being used a slang word for refuges and to the major event of the importance of Kee. Children of Men
blends both the totalitarian world of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four
and the destructive unrest of the world of A Clockwork Orange
Cuarón realizes a downbeat future with small technological advances which are left in the background: small things like bus advertisements and the panels inside car. Cuarón, his regular cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and art-direction brilliantly bring out this world, being gray, bleak and rundown. Children of Men
is known for its use of handheld cameras and steady-cam shots and this leads to some breathtaking scenes such as action scene within the car and the war scene in the refugee camp. The war scene near the end is particularly powerful as continuous shot adds a real sense of realism as we follow Theo in the war zone.
As well as setting out a grim vision of the future, Cuarón also uses Children of Men
to address contemporary issues. The most obvious is the issue of immigration, taking British attitudes and policy to its extremes as immigrates and refugees are rounded up and put into camps before deporting them. The war on terrorism and torture are portrayed in the background, with Cuarón giving us small hints like newspaper headlines and a man standing hooded like the prisoners of Abu Ghraib.
Religious extremism is also briefly addressed as comments are made about the army occupying mosques, Islamic extremists being blamed for bombings and how some people turn to religion in this time of crisis. Cuarón uses a historical precedent regarding the Repenters, a religious organisation seeking forgiveness by self harming who are similar to the Flagellants during the Black Death.
Cuarón showed a great understanding of the British psyche and culture, giving an authentic insight about the nation in this crisis. This ranges from the British attempt to carry on with life, soldiering on with a bulldog determination, keeping a siege mentality, while the public grieving over Baby Diego is similar to the reaction of Princess Diana's death.
Children of Men
has a fantastic cast, all centered around a great performance by Owen, as he plays a reluctant hero and because of his civil servant profession gives him a similar air to Nineteen-Eighty Four
's Winston Smith. Caine is very different to his usual persona, as he plays the cannabis smoking hippy and Moore and Owen have excellent chemistry together. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ashitey are notable in their roles and actors Danny Huston and Peter Mullan also show up in small roles. Mullan's character having the unusual trait of speaking about himself in the third person.
Children of Men
also has a brilliant use of music, using popular songs like "Ruby Tuesday" and "The Court of the Crimson King" in the background to highlight actions like Jasper and Theo smoking dope. While religious choir music truly added to gravity of world changing events and enhanced the beauty of a moment.
Children of Men
is a tragic, dark and bleak movie, creating a horrific scenario. Yet, it is also a rewarding experience due to its story, world-building, action sequences and filming style and it is a must see for anyone enjoy sci-fi, despotic or post-apocalyptical fiction.