Forget cannibalistic freaks on a hill, forget a stranger calling, forget a torture house in Eastern Europe, forget a chainsaw bearing monster, two of the scariest movies of 2006 were, without a doubt “When the Levees Broke,” and “Children of Men.” Why? Because both films present the utterly realistic and utterly possible events that will occur, should a natural catastrophe ever shake up the world. What makes “Children of Men” both a masterpiece and probably one of the most horrifying movies of the year is the fact that mass infertility, with the change of climates, evolution, and rising population, is possible, and likely to happen.
Cuarón’s shocking and utterly terrifying picture of a world gone to hell, thanks to rampant infertility presents some of the most stunning brutality ever depicted, much of which is a mirror image of what has occurred in third world countries over the last thirty years. Because I’ll tell you, this may be science fiction here, but in other countries, this is reality. In only 2027, most of the world has crumbled under chaos, terrorism, murder, violence and war thanks to the sudden mass infertility of all the world’s women. All humanity’s hope of procreation has been lost, and cities are wiped out day by day, as the hope of a future fades. In a society obsessed with the youngest boy alive, an activist named Theo is drawn into the rebellion of illegal immigrants into London, and now has to protect a young immigrant girl who is miraculously pregnant. Director Alfonso Cuarón creates a world not too much different from ours that views mankind turning on one another and scattering to discover the source of the infertility in their woman.
From government hysteria, terrorism, and illegal immigration, the government is now almost disbanded as the world’s elite huddle together watching the world crumble beneath their feet. I admit, I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic films, and what is conveyed is possibly one of the most realistic apocalypses ever depicted with the help of the utterly talented Cuarón who uses the handheld technique (similar in “Saving Private Ryan”) to capture a semi-documentary gritty sensibility that never shies away from the brutality we’ve become so familiar with. There’s no flash, no forays into the fantastic, and Cuarón strips the film down to the bare bones grit that presents the ominous view of the end of the world.
Cuarón’s direction is amazing with close-ups of horrible violence, and an excellent continuous shot exploring the land before us. Cuarón never seeks to wow us, because the material achieves that for itself showing a world where terrorism is rampant, immigrants are slaughtered, and genocide is a constant. Not too different from the present world, is it? “Children of Men” is a chaotic piece of drama that draws almost endless tension from the very beginning with a world where safety, comfort, and silence is a luxury. Much of what’s depicted may be too disturbing for many audiences, and I’ll admit I had a hard time sitting through most of it.
But, “Children of Men” is destined to be a classic, not just because of the talent behind it, but because of the methods in which it reflects humanity and the current state of society. How close we are to getting to this state is the notion that keeps Cuarón’s film from being regarded completely as science fiction. Through it all, though, it’s a marvel of filmmaking with a wonderful cast of actors who all give excellent performances; Michael Caine, Peter Mullan, Julianne Moore, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, respectively. The stand out though is Clive Owen, an actor I’m increasingly fond of, who gives what is, without a doubt, a truly Oscar worthy performance. And I demand he be recognized come award season.
Owen’s Theo is a weak and often confused hero who is presented with the important task of overcoming rebels, murderous guards, corrupt officials, and gun toting mercenaries to save the woman named Kee and her impending baby. Owen’s character is sympathetic, he’s scattered, and he often manages to avoid death in the most dire of circumstances. “Children of Men” is intentionally a world similar to ours, and dares the audience to look beyond the veil of science fiction to examine what is a possible circumstance of nature, and war. Self-repetition be damned, this is a masterpiece. That’s all there is to it. It’s one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in years, and it’s also the most realistic apocalyptic film I’ve ever seen, and hey, it’s also a masterpiece. How about that? I’m inclined to say 2006 was a bad year for film, but Cuarón proves me wrong. “Children of Men” goes beyond words in excellence. Because it just is.