Dystopian futures are one of the most well-realised forms of science fiction in literature and film. From George Orwell’s iconic 1984 all the way to films like The Road Warrior, the idea that we, as a species will inevitably destroy our own civilisation have fascinated and engaged us for decades. In 2006 Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, fresh off dragging Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban out of the saccharine legacy left by the previous two films was looking for an interesting project to further establish himself in Hollywood. His choice was Children of Men, an adaptation of the P.D. James short story The Children of Men.
Set in the year 2027, the human race has suffered through global flu pandemics, wars and a sudden and shocking infertility resulting in no child being born for 18 years. Governments have tightened their grip on an increasingly unruly population and borders have been shut and ˜immigrants’ have been forced into camps on the coast ready for deportation. It’s a classic dystopian future, similar in feel to a 1970s British science fiction film.
Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a former activist is kidnapped by Julian (Julianne Moore), his former wife and leader of an immigrants rights activist group. She explains that she needs his help getting transit papers for a young immigrant called Kee. Theo reluctantly agrees only to discover that the young woman is pregnant. Suddenly on the run from untrustworthy activists like Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), corrupt police officers like Syd (Peter Mullan) and with scarce few friends other than aging hippy Jasper (Michael Caine) the two must make a break for the coast in hopes of finding a mysterious group called ˜The Human Project’ and with them, safety.
Cuaron’s direction is the true star of Children of Men. His drained colour palette helps to create a true sense of insidious hopelessness, while his documentary-style camera shots increase the ˜reality’ of the film to almost newsreel levels. Cuaron also litters Children of Men with long tracking shots, which were clearly very difficult to choreograph, but further increase the realism of the film. There is one in particular where Theo runs from capture into the middle of a battlefield that is truly breathtaking.
Children of Men is simultaneously incredibly bleak and full of hope, a true horror vision of a future of our own creation. The newsreel, documentary style combined with stellar performances from a superb cast firmly establish it as one of the best examples of the science fiction genre in recent years and adds another great film to the CV of Alfonso Cuaron.