It’s very rare that I’m able to talk with somebody that has heard about Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men, let alone have seen it, and that’s such a shame. I was hoping that after Gravity‘s success, more people would begin to dig into Cuaron’s past films and discover this gem, but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have turned out this way. This is such an incredible movie with beautiful direction; and yet, even though it received a few Oscar nominations in 2006, it has fallen through the cracks.
The post apocalyptic genre has grown a lot in the past few years, with movies like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and most recently Mad Max: Fury Road. With all these other films coming out, its a shame that many missed Children of Men when it was first released. The movie is set in the year 2027, where it’s been 18 years since the last child has been born, and humankind is slowly going extinct because of it. In the midst of this, Theo, a man who has given up on all hope for mankind, is put in charge of escorting a miraculously pregnant girl to safety. And as opposing groups try to capture the baby for their own personal gain, Theo must outwit and outrun them in order to secure the earth’s only hope.
Children of Men is very enthralling as the viewer is placed in this horrific world. From the very first scene, where a bomb goes off in a coffee shop that Theo has just left, you realize that nowhere is safe and that the characters will be in constant danger. And with a swift pace, Cuaron pushes us ahead through this bleak and unforgiving world. As they run for their lives throughout the movie, the world is revealed as a crumbling civilization as present day London resembles the war torn cities in Saving Private Ryan. Mankind’s cruelty is also shown by the thousands of desperate immigrants being caged like animals, as they desperately try to get to London’s safer regions. This film has a hopeless look and feel to it, nothing seems like it can save the world at this point and that this will be the way the human race ends. But with a new baby about to enter the world again and offer mankind another chance, the underlying theme is hope. Its one of the most bleak and unforgiving out looks for the future, but it creates a very captivating world that not only looks but feels like its in its last days.
The immersion into the film is even better with great actors as the leads. Clive Owen stars as the main character and brings a grittiness to his role as an alcoholic that believes mankind is beyond repair. But he slowly becomes the reluctant hero and his world view begins to change. Owen shows this by tearing down the wall between Theo and the people around him, slowly learning to trust them, and taking control of the situation . He shows that you don’t have to an action hero to lead an action/thriller movie, you just need to be tough and resourceful to make it through. And even though Julianne Moore isn’t in the movie very long, she brings a toughness to her role as a leader of a band of terrorist that leaves an impact on the movie. You can tell that her past has left a lot of scars and that she has put all her feelings aside, especially for Theo, in order for her mission to succeed. Moore always picks interesting roles, and I respect that even though she may not have much time on screen, you can tell she really cares about the roles she plays. But by far Michael Caine’s performance is my favorite as he goes against type in his role. As Caine usually plays an uptight, uppity role in most of his recent films, like Alfred in the Dark Knight trilogy , here he gets the chance to literally let his hair down as a philosophical pot dealer that acts as a father figure to Theo. He’s very funny and loving in this role and I wish he played more like these. The rest of the supporting cast is excellent as well, with the late Roger Ebert stating, “The performances are crucial, because all of these characters have so completely internalized their world that they make it palpable, and themselves utterly convincing.”
But the real star of this movie is the direction. The documentary style filmmaking that Cuaron chose to shoot this in puts the viewer right in the middle of the action. It actually feels like a very unlucky camera crew was placed with these people as they travel, with the camera always a few feet behind the actors and many uninterrupted shots throughout. this makes the danger feel very real and close as they are constantly under attack from all sides. Two scenes specifically stick out, the first when our hero’s car is caught in an ambush and as they scramble to escape, the camera stays inside the vehicle with them, making the viewer feel like an unlucky passenger alongside them. The other is a long, uncut sprint through a war zone near the end, as Theo tries rescue the mother from danger. The amount of work and choreography put into these scenes make them feel real and authentic, adding another great layer to the movie.
This movie is criminally underrated and deserves more praise than it gets. There are many post apocalyptic movies that have come out lately, but many of them fall flat in a lot of areas.. Take the Divergent series for example, while it has interesting ideas, it tries too hard to be cool and takes itself way too seriously. This also goes for the characters, when the makers try so hard to make them bad asses, they forget to humanize them and make them relatable. So even when the over the top action sequences happen, you don’t have as much fun as you could and don’t care for the characters as much. These are the areas that Children of Men succeeds in, with characters that have depth, an appropriate tone, and really exciting action scenes.
So hopefully with the post apocalyptic genre’s massive popularity right now, this movie will be rediscovered and given the credit that it deserves.