Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men,” an electrifying and impassioned topical tale, begins with a bang, grabbing its audience by the collar and dragging it through a disturbingly resonant dystopia. Like the best of science fiction, “Children of Men” draws upon the familiar and relevant.
The year is 2027, and women can no longer give birth. The world has fallen into disarray, stricken by nuclear war, terrorism, corrupt regimes and warring factions. Theo (Clive Owen), a former activist, is approached by his revolutionary ex-lover (Julianne Moore) with a favor: He is to help the first pregnant woman in nearly 20 years reach a safe haven called the Human Project.
Cuarón, with the help of Emmanuel Lubezki’s exceptional camerawork, creates an immersive and frighteningly real vision of the future. The dazzling camera acrobatics include a 360-degree turn inside a car and a weave through a combat zone. They define and describe England in 2027 by enforcing the urgency of the parable. Lingering shots allow the audience to enter a fully realized, tangible universe of broken glass, rubble and poverty. Because there are few close-ups in the film, the audience cannot help but view the characters in the context of their crumbling environment.
A fine collection of talent aids Cuarón and Lubezki. Owen channels Humphrey Bogart as the reluctant hero: a man so disillusioned by the state of the world that, initially, he has only enough time and energy to look out for himself. Superlative set design strikes a balance between the contemporary and the fantastical design of other seminal science-fiction films, such as “Metropolis” and “Blade Runner.”
Amid the impending doom of “Children of Men,” Cuarón injects a strong undercurrent of unadulterated hope. The film parallels the Christian nativity, though it does not specifically stay within the confines of that story. Cuarón achieves a great deal of spirituality without going too far. His message is of faith, not necessarily in a higher power, but faith in a better tomorrow. Both a cautionary tale and a riveting chase picture, “Children of Men” is worthy of placement in the annals of the great science fiction films.
“Children of Men” was written by Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and directed by Cuarón.
“Children of Men” received four out of four stars.