It's 2027, and the world has descended into anarchy. For unknown reasons all women are infertile, and the last human birth occurred 18 years prior. England is trying to maintain a semblance of civility but is ruled by an authoritarian, anti-immigration regime struggling to contain a terrorist campaign waged by a resistance group calling themselves The Fishes. Former activist turned bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is contacted by his ex-wife Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore) for help. She is a leader within the resistance movement, and her group has stumbled upon illegal immigrant Kee, who is shockingly pregnant.
Julian wants Theo to escort Kee to the coast and the safety of a shadowy group known as The Human Project. Despite help from Julian's second-in-command Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), it's quickly apparent that the mission is compromised. Theo and Kee seek refuge with his only friend Jasper Palmer (Michael Caine), as the more militant members of the resistance recognize the symbolic value of Kee and decide to exploit her to whip up a full fledged rebellion.
Cuarón draws a line under the vision by deploying a distinctive colour palette dominated by depressing greys and sickly green-browns. From the concrete buildings to the dark skies and unhealthy rural landscapes, nature appears to have turned off its happiness mode and imposed a blanket of gloom over England. The people respond in turn with a resigned surrender, the purpose of life no longer clear when life itself can no longer be created.
Working with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and co-editor Alex Rodríguez, Cuarón creates majestic illusions of long single-take scenes. The camera work is fluid, the action choreographed with uncommon artistry. The final, most outstanding seemingly unedited sequence is nothing short of breathtaking, more than 6 minutes of Theo moving through a chaotic battle scene, trying to find Kee as government troops battle the rebels in a grim urban landscape, finally moving into a large building populated by huddled and terrified illegal immigrants trying to survive the mayhem.
Clive Owen delivers one of his finest performances, his weathered face a perfect fit for the downcast government employee reluctantly nudged back into a conflict he very much wanted to leave in his past. Michael Caine adds the only touch of irreverent animation, Jasper Palmer a bit too old to care, living off happier memories and present drugs to see out his tenure.
Children Of Men looks into the human mirror, and finds the meticulous darkness of the soul.
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