It’s 2027. No new babies have been born since 2009 and the world’s youngest person has just been killed at the age of 18. Theo (Clive Owen) works for a media company, but when his ex, a revolutionary leader (Julianne Moore), gets in touch he finds himself looking after the first woman to be pregnant in decades, and the last hope of humankind.
Set in Britain, this is a superbly imagined future. There are no hover cars or robots, just subtle changes like moving adverts on buses, which are the kinds of changes that will actually happen in such a short time frame. It’s also run down, scruffy and poverty sticken. Yet in this future screens declare that while the rest of the word decays, Britain soldiers on; an eerie reflection of David Cameron’s recent propaganda speech to inflate Britain’s already swollen ego.
It’s also a Britain where immigrants are hounded out of the country and held in Guantanamo-like conditions. Adverts frequently warn against hiding immigrants, but even the writers of a grim future couldn’t conceive (no pun intended) of anything as crass and offensive as the government’s recent “go home or face arrest” advertising campaign. In any case Children of Men certainly feels like a dystopian extrapolation of the world we’re in. For a film which is rather simple in terms of plot, it packs in a lot of ideas and finds its way onto the “sci fi films that are even more relevant now than when they were made” list.
It’s also technically superb, with minimal CGI and a visual quality that pays off enormously in terms of making this film believable. The famous long takes during battle scenes serve to set this out from the crowd, and emphasise that this isn’t an action film in order to keep the focus on the young mother-to-be.
[Possible spoiler this paragraph] The scene in which the mother and baby are escorted through a battle is perhaps a reflection on the effect war has on youngsters in our world. 18 years after the last child has been born, soldiers on both sides are frozen by the sight of a baby. It takes these extraordinary circumstances for the combatants to realise the beauty and innocence in a new born baby and to stop fighting around it. Yet in the world today war frequently kills innocent children. Why are these children any different from the one in the film? Children of Men is a call to stop violence, to stop using the innocent for political ends, and to treat them as this baby is treated.
If it has a problem it’s that beyond the basic set up it doesn’t really go anywhere, which might prove unfulfilling for some. As I’ve said it packs a lot of good sci fi ideas in, but those hoping for a more comprehensive explanation for what’s going on may feel a little let down. But even the most demanding viewer will struggle to argue with this brilliantly realised sci fi drama which packs an emotional punch and succeeds in most other ways. Stunningly rich, it pack so much into every frame that it can be watched again and again.