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Published May 11th 2014
The most overlooked film of recent times
Clive Owen stars as Theo in "Children of Men"
Last one to die please turn out the light.
Before he was launching A-list stars into space in last years critical and commercial darling Gravity Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón was a little more subtle and a lot more underrated. Previously most renowned for his addition to the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban it is easy to overlook arguably his best film, which was a commercial flop despite a strong cast and overwhelming critical praise: 2006's Children of Men.
Set roughly fifteen years in the future Children of Men paints a grim and terrifying prediction of mankind's possible fate. Humanity is dying a slow death after being rendered infertile some twenty years previously. Civilisation has collapsed in all countries and nations devolve into chaos as people just lose hope for the future. England is the only country left stable with the government pumping out fascist/nationalist propaganda and demonising illegal immigrants who are fleeing the horrors that have occurred since global infertility.
Our guide in this vivid apocalypse is Theo (Clive Owen) who is grieving the loss of his own child years before drifts through the slow death of mankind, going through the daily motions with little deviation between the days, give or take a random bombing by the pro-refugee revolutionary group "The Fishes" led by Julian (Julianne Moore) who also happens to be Theo's former partner.
After years of separation Julian makes contact with Theo and charges him escorting an illegal refugee, Kee (Claire Hope-Ashitey) across the country, evading government forces and other parties hunting her. Against his will Theo is forced to involve himself in someone else's life and begins to regain his humanity which he abandoned long ago
Children of Men is, without a doubt in my mind, a masterpiece. Cuarón involves the viewer in the story through likeable and human characters and dynamic and jaw-dropping cinematography. The world itself is incredibly fleshed-out with so many ancillary details bleeding off of the screen: digital advertisements, broadcast ads, and ramshackle slums tell you more about the world than any exposition (there are few) scene could ever hope to achieve. The garbage bags littering the pavements of London show that the garbagemen just don't bother to pick it up are a nice visual touch, after all what is the point of picking up after yourself if no one's going to be around in 50 years?
Cuaron utilises art and history throughout the film. Visual allusions to Pink Floyd, Guantanamo Bay, and the street artist Banksy are sprinkled through the film's duration. Most noticeable of these cues is a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" by Franco Battiato which will send shivers down your back.
Cuarón conveys a feeling of loss and inevitability that hangs over the entire film. A lot of the characters are tired and defeated, Theo especially. Clive Owen deserves nothing but the highest praise for his portrayal of Theo. In the space of two hours Theo goes from an empty shell to someone actively fighting to protect what might be the last hope for mankind.
It's not just Clive Owen who deserves praise. Everyone in the extended ensemble brings their absolute best to the roles they play. Michael Caine as Jasper, an aging hippy friend of Theo's is a particular highlight, alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Danny Houston (The Proposition) and Pam Ferris (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
Even though the film drags you through the worst that mankind can accomplish Children of Men ends on a relatively positive note. The rich world that Cuarón crafts will stay with you long after the credits roll. Children of Men demands your attention and rewards you on multiple viewings: another detail is gathered or another character's motives become more obvious. It is these little details, alongside some staggering one-shot takes that last several minutes and will leave you gripping your chair so intensely you will be tearing up the upholstery, that show Cuarón's innovative skill as a filmmaker. Just on the edge of the spotlight since Gravity Alfonso Cuarón deserves your attention.
Just watch it already. In a few years people will be mentioning this film in the same sentence as Blade Runner in the pantheon of sci-fi classics. Children of Men is an utterly unique approach to the end-of-the-world.
If you like this also watch:The Proposition (2005), Soylent Green (1973), On The Beach (2000), V For Vendetta