STARRING: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Charlie Hunnam, Chiwetel Ejiofor

2006, 109 Minutes, Directed by:
Alfonso Cuarón

It is the year 2027 and the world’s youngest person has just died. What makes this particularly newsworthy is the fact that he was 18 years of age. See, for the past 18 years or so women across the planet have been infertile and unable to bear any children. No-one is exactly sure why this happened. Pollution? A genetic fluke? No-one knows for sure.

Needless to say the fact that the entire human race would be extinct in about fifty years or so has left a bitter taste in humanity’s collective mouths and the world is going to hell in a hand basket in an orgy of nihilist anger and violence. What’s the point of the human endeavor is no-one is left around in a few years’ time to appreciate our efforts? As random violence spread, the regime in Britain has become increasingly obsessed with the whole issue of illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorism and has descended into a brutal dictatorship. Movement without passes is an impossibility and travel in the countryside a dangerous prospect because of a lawlessness and gangs of marauders.

Into this familiar dystopian milieu steps Theo (Clive Owen), a cynical and embittered civil servant (yeah, I know that describes most of them anyway). Except for the occasional visit to an ex-political activist friend of his (played excellently by a long-haired Michael Caine) life seems pretty pointless until one day he is contacted by his ex-wife (Julianne Moore). Moore’s character belongs to a “terrorist” organization opposed to the current British regime and they have made a startling discovery that would give humanity hope again . . .

"Strong contender for the best science fiction film of  2006 . . ."

This latest film by talented director Alfonso Cuarón of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Y Tu Mamá También fame is simply put one of the best films of 2006 . . . in any genre, be it science fiction or anything else. It works well as both science fiction drama and action thriller.

Science fiction fans will in particular enjoy Cuarón’s brilliant realization of the now familiar black uniformed soldier-run dystopia which has been a staple of the genre since Brazil and rehashed in anything from Barbwire to the more recent V for Vendetta. But whereas the future depicted in V for Vendetta is pure comic book stuff, the one in Children of Men is incredibly gritty and real. The same goes for the film’s action scenes, in particular an extended urban combat scene that is so intense and well executed that it puts Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket to shame.

Like the recent V for Vendetta, Children of Men isn’t really about the future, but about our post-9/11 present. Europeans, and in particular Brits, will find the obsession with illegal immigrants and radical Islamism, the decline in civil liberties and the concept of zero population growth familiar, if grossly exaggerated. It is this gross exaggeration that makes it fair to describe Children of Men as a satire of contemporary times (remember, satires needn’t be funny).

Add to the film’s very poignant central plot conceit some unexpected twists, a very clever and literate screenplay, realistic production designs and some great acting by the principal cast and you have a film that is a strong contender for the best science fiction film of the year even though the truth is that it is the sort of film that would be appreciated by even those who usually despise the genre.


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