Children Of Men is the most powerful political statement film disguised as a sort of futuristic sci-fi thriller that I have seen since last year's brilliant yet under-appreciated V For Vendetta. Like V, Children Of Men is set in a futuristic, fascist version of London, England. The more "undesirable" segments of society are rounded up like dogs and led to internment and eventual death in concentration camps. Meanwhile, the resistance does its best to fight the good fight.
The difference here is that while V For Vendetta hits you over the head with the sort of black and white, good vs. evil scenario that it portrays, the oppressive world of Children Of Men is painted in far greyer shades. For instance, in this film you never see the government secretly plotting out its agenda against humanity, nor is any explanation for it — reasonable or otherwise — ever offered up.
Another thing that is never explained is how the world became an infertile one, which lies at the crux of the film's plot. Here again, where V For Vendetta's battle between a populist vigilante and an oppressive government paints things in absolute tones without room for ambiguity, even the resistance groups in Children Of Men seem to harbor hidden agendas of their own.
The year is 2027 and it has been at least a few decades since anyone has given birth to children. Theo Farrell (Clive Owen) is a burnt-out former political activist turned disillusioned alcoholic who is drafted into service for a resistance group called "the Fishers" — led by Julian (Julianne Moore), his girlfriend from that former life — when they kidnap him. His mission is to get the first pregnant woman, a "fugee" named Ki (who even looks a little like Lauryn Hill), to the safety of yet another underground group called "The Human Project."
Along the way, the audience is introduced to a number of interesting characters such as Micheal Caine's sympathetic pot-smoking pal, who comes off looking and sounding very much like how you would imagine John Lennon would have been in his twilight years. Not nearly as sympathetic is the white, dreadlocked guy with bad breath whose sole purpose in life seems to be to kill Theo and Ki.
The overriding theme here is the paranoid view to "trust no one," while the police and the various factions of the resistance blow the shit out of everything in sight as Theo and Ki do their best to navigate their way through the carnage. In one of the more poignant scenes, a bunch of military guys stop everything to allow Theo, Ki, and her newborn child safe passage, before resuming a fierce firefight between themselves and their enemies. The awe on their faces as they do so is absolutely priceless.
There is not much more I can say about Children Of Men without giving away major pieces of the plotline. To be honest, I think I'm going to have to watch it at least a few more times before I completely understand it.
Children Of Men is a really powerful film that will have you thinking hard and deep, long after its final frames have passed. Clive Owen gives what should have been an Oscar-worthy understated performance as the alcoholic former activist who finds redemption in his newfound cause of guiding to safety humanity's last, great hope in the form of a pregnant refugee. Equally strong are Micheal Caine's John Lennon-styled pot-smoking hippie, and Julianne Moore's all too brief (she's gone after the film's first thirty minutes) turn as the eternal political idealist.
Bonus features on the DVD include deleted scenes, director's commentary, and a short documentary on how the issues raised by Children Of Men may be manifesting themselves today in modern day society. For music fans, the soundtrack is also a pretty damn cool, if slightly bizarre, one that features a mix of now obscure sixties songs like King Crimson's "Court of the Crimson King" and muzak versions of Rolling Stones songs like "Ruby Tuesday," which plays a very important role in the film.
Much like V For Vendetta, this is a thinking man's political movie disguised as sci-fi action thriller. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
So go rent it already.