Children Of Men (15)



Thriller (2006)
109mins UK/US

Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writer(s): Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of the PD James novel is set in a futuristic world where women are no longer able to conceive and the human race is slowly but surely dying out. By chance, a single woman falls pregnant and activist Theo and his ex-wife join forces to protect the mother and her foetus before government authorities learn of their existence.

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Read Nicholas Carter's Review
Read Sophie Abell's Review

LondonNet Film Review by Nicholas Carter

Children Of Men
Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian new film Children of Men opens with the terrorist bombing of a coffee shop within the first five minutes. From there the film maintains a breakneck pace, flying along through London of 2027. The audience should be prepared to cling to the tenuous plot threads for dear life, because if one can keep up it's an incredible ride....

Theo (CLIVE OWEN) and Julian (JULIANNE MOORE) in Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Copyright: © 2006 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Children of Men's central character is the burnt-out everyman Theo (played by the charmingly bleak Clive Owen), an unhappy, alcoholic office-worker who is suddenly roped into a pseudo-prison break by former lover Julian (Julianne Moore). His task, which he initially undertakes for the UKP5,000 Julian offers, is to get Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to the coast.

Sounds very simple, but the plot threads multiply fast. Just before the coffee shop is vaporized the TV news announces that the youngest person on earth has just been killed in a bar brawl. Diego Ricardo, 2009-2027, was the last person born before an 18-year worldwide infertility set in. Theo, in a conversation with his friend Jasper (Michael Caine), destroys the legend of Little Diego: "The guy was a w*****." Jasper merely gives him a wry look and replies, "Yeah, but he was the youngest w***** on the planet."

This infertility is the crux of the film. It is because of this that most of the world has plunged into chaos, while Britain has survived by resorting to totalitarian measures to keep order. The film is shot in dirty greys and blues and the only successful industry in 2027 seems to be the police. Without children, thus without a future, the populace seems to be merely going through the motions in a world without hope. Government-distributed suicide kits are so plentiful that Jasper has taken to using them as rat poison: "They seem to go quite peacefully." One of the most effective sequences of the film has Theo and Kee wandering through the ghost town of a primary school, abandoned for years to decay.

Unlike many futuristic films, however, Children of Men shows, not tells, how the world works in these dark days. Little actual information is given about the government or economy of 2027; instead, scenes of protesters throwing stones at Theo's train, or long shots of camps for illegal immigrants (obviously based upon Nazi concentration camps) suffice where a wordy explanation would have merely seemed unrealistic and pedantic.

In the end, realism is both the greatest boon and greatest curse of Children of Men. A massive flaw in logic near the end of the film will have many viewers smacking themselves in the forehead. Even so, it's hard not to forgive Cuaron of scenes such as this simply because of how masterfully they are shot. When Owen praises Cuaron's films as "visually stunning", it's not just hot air.

Cuaron likely angered every producer involved in the film, for he demands the opposite of conventional action films. It is obviously much easier to organise a scene which lasts for six seconds rather than six minutes, yet nearly every action sequence is filmed in extraordinarily long takes. These sequences, shot along with the rest of the film using only handheld cameras, take on a disconcertingly realistic appearance as bullets begin whistling past the main characters' heads and explosions rock them back on their heels. Children of Men has, without a doubt, some of the most impressive visions of urban combat ever filmed.

One incredible scene, the most panic-inducing chase sequence in years, contains such well-camouflaged cuts that it appears to be a single shot twelve minutes in length. Producer Jim Clay said, "We were charged with knitting together a series of shots that should hopefully become seamless as one timeless piece of action."

Cuaron said: "Everyone – the stunt people, the visual effects, the cast, the crew – took it as a crusade and said, ‘No way, we're not going to cut! We're going to go all the way through!'"

For viewers looking for an extremely entertaining, clever chase film, look no farther. For fans of science fiction looking for glittering visions of the future, this film is a bit too gritty and down-to-earth to really appeal. And for those who would look for psychological depth and complex characterization, it's a mixed bag. Owen and Moore are both exceptional actors, but the script treats their relationship a bit too elliptically to be satisfying. Caine is, as always, excellent, but again his role is simply not meaty enough to really let him flex his muscles. The best scenes are those between Owen and Ashitey, for these portray a strained trust that seems true to life. Rounding out the cast are Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam, who make good use of inadequate screen time.

In the end, the film succeeds despite all flaws because of its visceral veracity. This is a film that feels real; there are many documentaries that seem false and flat in comparison. Death in the film is treated with such blasé lightness that Theo, described by Cuaron as "someone who's fighting to stay dead, a character who's given up on his journey", seems in mortal danger throughout. For a modern audience to fear for the main character's safety is quite a feat in and of itself.

- Nicholas Carter

LondonNet Film Review by Sophie Abell

Children Of Men
Set more than 20 years in the future, Children Of Men is a brilliantly orchestrated, nightmarish thriller adapted from the P.D. James novel about a world teetering on the brink of anarchy...

Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban), who co-wrote the screenplay with Timothy J. Sexton, energizes this dystopian fantasy with his directorial brio. He orchestrates a series of jaw-dropping action set pieces that are staggering in their technical daring and breathtaking in their simplicity, seamlessly melding inventive camerawork with unobtrusive special effects.


It's a tour de force of edgy Steadicam shots that plunge the characters, and us, into the centre of a war zone, recalling the same visceral thrills on the frontline as Saving Private Ryan. Buildings explode under heavy artillery bombardment, background characters are scythed down in a hail of bullets and all hope is lost amidst the bloodshed.

The year is 2027. Women are no longer able to conceive and the human race is slowly but surely dying out. Half the population is grimly resigned to its fate and determined to toast the end of mankind; the other half struggles to maintain law and order, despite dwindling resources and little hope of finding a cure to the pregnancy crisis.

One-time activist turned government bureaucrat Theo (Clive Owen) has given up caring, too badly scarred by the separation from his partner Julian (Julianne Moore), and the death of his young son. "In 2008, along came the flu pandemic... and he was gone," laments Theo.

During a walk through the cluttered streets of London, Theo is kidnapped and finds himself face to face with Julian and her comrades from a rebel outfit called Fish, which fights for the rights of Britain's vast refugee population. Julian needs an urgent favour: transit papers for a 'fugee' called Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), who must be granted safe passage through the various checkpoints to the coast, where she will be taken into the protection of the mythical Human Project.

Theo reluctantly agrees but a bureaucratic glitch means he is forced to accompany Kee on her hazardous journey. En route, he learns the young woman's shocking secret. "She's pregnant!" gasps Theo, staring at Kee's distended belly. "I know," replies Fish activist Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), "Now you know what's at stake."

Owen delivers one of his best performances as a lifeless man, whose activist spirit is unexpectedly re-ignited by his contact with Kee. He's in almost every single shot of the film and effortlessly holds our attention, generating a touching screen chemistry with Ashitey. Moore impresses in her pivotal supporting role, as does Michael Caine as the aging hippie and political cartoonist who sells cannabis and still believes in a world of free expression and harmony. Such a beautiful dream.

- Sophie Abell


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