Play It Again – Children of Men

Children of Men

By Jess Lomas
December 5, 2013

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!). As we near Quickflix’s tenth birthday, we’re looking back on some of the most beloved films from the past decade!

It’s 2027 and a human baby has not been born in 18 years. Director Alfonso Cuarón‘s 2006 sci-fi thriller Children of Men may paint a bleak picture, but the film’s startling realism has a lasting impact. Loosely adapted from the novel by P.D. James, our would-be hero is Theo Faren (Clive Owen), a has-been activist turned contemptuous public servant. Pollution, natural disasters, terrorism, and wars have taken their toll on the world, and Britain’s considerable stability has attracted a deluge of illegal immigrants, all of whom are rounded up into camps as the borders are closed.

Theo is approached by the activist group The Fishes, who happen to be led by his ex-lover Julian (Julianne Moore). She wants Theo’s help in smuggling the young Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to a rumoured safe haven, claiming she is the key to humanity’s future. What the future will look like has taken on many cinematic forms over the years, from flying cars, to apes ruling the planet, to the dystopian future so fashionable in pop culture today. Children of Men envisions a future where, thanks to the nonexistence of children, there is an absence of hope, and anarchy reigns. It depicts the plausible scenario where fear is fuelled, and used, by the powers that be, as Britain falls into a police state.

Children of Men

Ultimately grimy, both in subject matter and visually, thanks to set designers Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland), the picture is frightening and powerful. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki masters the long, single camera shots to place you squarely in the nightmare. There’s not a weak performance in the ensemble (not even Michael Caine’s cameo as a hippie), and Owen paves the way, leading us to hope he tackles such material again soon.

What’s striking about the screenplay and Cuarón’s direction is the decision to avoid making a glossy, Hollywood blockbuster. There are still plenty of action sequences, but with a much-needed depth to resonate more than a generic thriller would. In Children of Men, as in Cuarón’s Gravity, there are plenty of moments that make you catch your breath, and some that shock you outright.

4/5

Children of Men is available on Quickflix.

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