13 January 2007

Review: Children of Men

Last weekend, I went to see the film "Children of Men" starring Clive Owen and Michael Caine and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. The film is based on the premise that humankind is no longer able to produce children (for unknown reasons). As the film opens, the youngest person on Earth has just died, an 18 year old named Diego born in 2009. Since humans will probably die out in 70 years, the world has dissolved into anarchy. There are nuclear wars, riots, bombings all over the world. One of the few "safe" places left is Britain but only because it has become a police state. Refugees who try to get into Britain are arrested, rounded up in camps, and deported. Theo (Clive Owen) is a disillusioned, alcoholic bureaucrat. Theo is contacted by his old flame Julian. The two of them were activists in their younger days. Julian needs Theo's help to get transit papers for a young woman named Kee who is eight months pregnant. The rest of the movie is essentially a chase in 2027 as Cuaron puts it. Theo tries to get Kee to safety by delivering her to a group called the "Human Project." The film doesn't explain this very well, but I believe the Human Project is a utopian society where scientists are researching human reproduction.   

It's easy to label Children of Men as a sci-fi flick or a typical humankind-meets-disaster film, but I found it moving and meaningful even in the healthier world of 2007. I enjoyed the many subtle details that are weaved into the film without disrupting the main storyline. For example, there is a TV commercial for a suicide drug called "Quietus". We see a religious group flagellating themselves on the street -- they claim that God is punishing mankind for their sins by preventing reproduction. As Theo takes the train home from work, riffraff(?) throw stones at the windows. There are also a couple showstopper scenes: Kee's baby silences a shooting war behind activists and military, Kee sits in a playground swing while Theo watches through the shattered window of an abandoned classroom. Ironically, the most hopeful (and colorful) character in the film is Michael Caine's character, a former political cartoonist and hippy.

I found Children of Men to be a riveting tale cautioning of what happens when a society loses all hope. It would be scary if we destroyed ourselves through terrorism, nuclear bombing, bioweaponry, etc, but even worse if humans just died off slowly and helplessly. I think it's better to die by fire than by ice.

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