Never let it be said that Alfonso Cuarón is predictable. He’s directed the Gwenyth Paltrow remake of Great Expectations, the sexy Y tu mamá también that unleashed Gael Garcia Bernal on the general public, what many consider to be the best Harry Potter movie – The Prisoner of Azkaban, and now Children of Men. Sharing more than a little in common with V For Vendetta, Children of Men is a dystopic vision that has seen the world tumble into chaos, with totalitarian laws hanging over the population’s every move. The dingy rundown streets are nothing compared to the ‘fugee’ camps, where all those without English citizenship are herded like animals. The catalyst of this future was an epidemic that rendered humans barren – there have been no babies for 18 years.
The focus of the film (based on a book by P.D. James) is Theodore Faron, a man that has chosen the safer option and holds a steady job doing what he’s told whilst the world crumbles around him. After way too many films featuring a bland, stoic Clive Owen (Sin City, Inside Man) he finally gets a role with depth in Children of Men. Faron is both conflicted and determined, and not once do we feel that he is in control of his circumstances. The brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor plays rebel Luke, under the command of Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore). The cast also includes ex-political cartoonist and hippie Jasper (Michael Caine), who brings a much-needed human element to the film.
The action scenes are stunning. Nothing in recent memory can compare with the power and realism of the war-torn future depicted here. There are a number of ridiculously long single steadycam shots, following characters inside and outside buildings, through gunfights and into vehicles. Such moments are truly unmatched by any war film I can remember. There is an intelligent use of special effects, also – rather than plopping all the actors in front of a greenscreen they instead shoot on location or in large-scale sets, with minute CGI alterations. George Lucas could learn from this film.
As with V For Vendetta and a number of science fiction films of late, Children of Men has more than a passing jab at the current political climate. Government slogans are pasted everywhere, encouraging citizens to be untrusting of their neighbours, and to report any ‘suspicious’ behaviour. The refugee camps will of course resonate with many Australians who will recognise the (however exaggerated) similarities to our detention centres. In a West that switches morals for money and freedom for security, the best that can be said is that there’s certainly a lot to inspire dystopian science fiction.
Children of Men is a fairly single-minded affair – once it gets going the narrative drive is simple and unrelenting. There is a lot left unexplained also, particularly the intentions of the various parties vying for the very important refugee Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), but for all its simplicity it remains a very powerful film.Rating: