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Children Of Men (2006)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

review by Gary McMahon

It is the year 2027 and society is breaking down. There are food shortages, terrorist attacks are commonplace, and the city streets are filled with immigrants who are herded up and caged like animals. Mass infertility has halted childbirth across the globe; the last baby was born 18 years ago.

Theo is an office worker with his own demons to wrestle. When he hears of the death of baby Diego, the youngest person on Earth, and then narrowly escapes a random coffee shop bombing, his cynicism at the national grieving that follows the former event is almost overwhelming. Theo is a broken man. He has lost what it is that makes us human: the facility for hope.

Julian (Julianne Moore), his ex wife and leader of a hard-line band of terrorists, asks him to help smuggle a Fijian refugee called Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) out of the country. He accepts mainly for the money on offer, and for the love he once had for Julian and their dead child. But as Theo is drawn deeper into a plot that has massive ramifications for the entire world, and the refugee girl's secret is revealed, his hope slowly begins to reawaken.

The slow apocalypse featured in Children Of Men highlights a world not that far removed from our own: the future is already here, and it's crap. Horror is embedded in the familiar, and the film can almost be seen as a paean to the dreams and ambitions of the 20th century.

Clive Owen is mesmerising in the role of an accidental hero, a man who finds himself lurching from one terrifying situation to the next, and finally stumbles into his own redemption in the face of what might be a miracle. There are also a bunch of great cameo performances from Michael Caine as Theo's old hippy friend Jasper, Peter Mullan as a security officer who talks about himself in the third person, and the ever-lovely Julianne Moore: even the minor roles in the film are essayed perfectly.

The film consists of a series of long single-takes, with the action happening in the background while the camera focuses on the unwilling protagonist, following him into every corner of his perfectly realised world. Action scenes play like newsreel footage - scary, up-close and realistic. One pivotal and emotionally charged scene also contains the best use of CGI that I have ever seen. Stylistically, this is a bold piece of work, and the visual risks pay off spectacularly, especially in the final scenes, where both the authorities and the terrorists attack a refugee camp while Theo tries to save the life of a woman whose wellbeing has suddenly become more important than his own. In parts, I was reminded of Mad Max, the amazing pre-credit sequence of Dawn Of The Dead, 12 Monkeys, The Pianist... but Children Of Men is its own beast with a definite identity. The resemblance to these other films is in only terms of tone and mood; everything else is utterly original.

A special mention is due to the eclectic soundtrack, which is a real treat. The old Rolling Stones' song Ruby Tuesday has never been so moving, or so aptly used. In short, Children Of Men is an astonishing achievement, an intensely moving film about the importance of hope that focuses on one man's hard-fought redemption. There aren't many films like this one made any more, so savour it while you can. See it before it comes true.
Children Of Men

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