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They Are Our Dystopian Future

image by Veronica V. Jones

Terror and Triumph Beget Children of Men

Clive Owen as Theo and Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee. Clive Owen as Theo. Julianne Moore as Julian. Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee. Michael Caine as Jasper.

Children of Men is a brutal vision of a near-future nightmare world rocked by terrorism and fascism, slowly ripping itself to pieces. The reason for the films creeping apocalypse is two decades of global infertility. Faced with the grim prospect of being the last of humanity, most nations are lawless wastelands, with the UK having kept some vestiges of civilization thought the use of draconian curtailments of civil liberties, and the forced expulsion of all non-citizens.

The main protagonist of the film is Theo Faron, a civil servant powerfully revealed as equal parts broken idealist and reluctant hero by Clive Owen. We experience 2027 London’s bedlam and horror through him… with him. Within minutes of the film’s opening, he narrowly avoids a coffee-shop bombing, and is shortly thereafter abducted by masked men led by his long-estranged wife. She attempts to enlist his aid in secreting a young ‘fugee woman out of the country, but he declines. Ultimately, however, he can’t resist the return to his lost days of activism and romance — or simply the lure of cold hard cash.

The acting, pacing and story itself are all quite strong, but if Children has a flaw, it may be that the cinematography is too compelling, too evocative. At once more immersive that a videogame, and more visceral than a documentary, the awe-inspiring camera work relentlessly places us in harm’s way, making the film a violently personal experience. Coupled with state of the art post-production wizardry, disbelief is never an option, and the overwhelming menace and despair might obscure the brief but brilliant moments of hope and beauty for some.

It does director Alfonso Cuarón a grave injustice to merely call this masterwork an artful blend of Blade Runner and Saving Private Ryan, for while he evokes the best of both these films, it is at once more fantastic and timely that either. This may be an altogether different fable than P. D. James’ novel tells, but Mr. Cuarón’s Children of Men is a indisputable masterpiece at many levels, and a compelling testament to the weaknesses… and strengths of humanity.

Written by in January of 2007. Last edited March 2017.

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