Director Alfonso Cuarón has had a very interesting career to date. He’s done children’s movies (A Little Princess), sexually explicit dramas (Y Tu Mama Tambien), and a major franchise film (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) among others. Azkaban was easily the best of the Potter films to date, and I really enjoyed Cuaron’s storytelling style and visual sensibilities. His latest film, Children of Men has a similar look, but the film couldn’t be any different.
Based on the novel by P.D. James, Children of Men takes place 20 years from now, in a dystopian future where humans are unable to reproduce, and the world has fallen into disarray. England is a police state where they’re constantly rounding up the refugees (affectionately called “fugees”) trying to escape their own ravaged countries and putting them in elaborate camps. “The Fishes” – an underground group trying to fight against the inhumane treatment of these refugees – riddle the country with attacks to try to spread attention to their cause. The movie focuses on Theo (Clive Owen), a man who is pulled into the underground world of the Fishes – led by his ex-wife – to help Kee (a miraculously pregnant West African refugee) get to the coast, so she can be taken by a secret hospital ship to The Human Project, based in the Azores.
As Theo travels on this difficult journey to bring Kee to safety, we meet a variety of characters, including Theo’s ex-political cartoonist friend Jasper (Michael Caine) who grows illegal pot, Theo’s ex-wife and Fish-member Julian (Julianne Moore), Miriam the former midwife (Pam Ferris) and Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Fish member with questionable motives. Eventually Theo gets Kee to a refugee camp where they can get to the coast, at which point the military has caught up to everyone resulting in a big confrontation.
Cuaron does everything exceptionally well. The film is well shot, well paced, interesting, well staged, and exciting at times too. The problem with it is, what’s the point? I mean, it’s a rather well done film – with some exceptionally great sequences – but I just don’t see how it matters. Theo is the protagonist – we see the entire film through his eyes – but he doesn’t actually do anything. He’s a victim of circumstance, for the most part, and everything he does is for Kee – but even when the end of the film comes, you are left with a feeling of “um, okay, now what?”
There are also a lot of political statements within the film that, although it takes place 20 years from now, pretty much exists as “a vision” of the left’s most paranoid canards brought to life. The use of Abu Ghraib imagery in the detention center was one of the less subtle examples of this. See? Bush is evil, and within 2 years humankind could be doomed because of what he and his evil administration has wrought upon us. Oh well. So yes, Children of Men is a very very well done film. But I’m not really sure about the message. There was a message, right?