Children of Men
In a politically motivated secular alternative to the Nativity story, Clive Owen makes his way through a war-torn world in 2027 to protect humanity's savior.
In 2027 the world is a barren place—and not just figuratively. For almost two decades, women have mysteriously been unable to have children. The result is a human race with no hope of a future, a civilization on its last leg. As one British propaganda ad touts, "The world has collapsed ... only Britain soldiers on." Indeed, because of legislation banning immigration, the English borders have been sealed, apparently making it the lone country on the planet still halfway reminiscent of its former self.
That isn't to say it's a land of tranquility. Terrorists, rebel groups and even government agents rule the streets with bombings, kidnappings and rampant gunfire. Meanwhile, outsiders trying to enter the country are viciously herded like cattle into cages and camps—if they're not just outright exterminated.
Among the surviving but confined refugees is a teenage miracle from West Africa named Kee. She's looking to get transit papers that will get her safely out of England. The reason: She's eight months pregnant. The rebel group hiding her, The Fishers, is convinced that if the Big Brother-like British government found her it would take the baby and do away with its mother for fear that word would get out about the country's last blood line being foreign. Kee's only hope—and that of all humanity—is to reach a group on the English coast called the Human Project, which, if it exists at all, reportedly has a cure for infertility in the works.
Kee's ticket out is an unlikely source. Ministry of Energy worker Theo Faron had been resigned to spending his remaining time on earth chasing the bottom of a bottle rather than pursuing lifelong dreams. But he snaps out of it when he's recruited by The Fishers' leader, Julian Taylor (who's also a former flame), and takes upon himself the responsibility of protecting Kee and her baby no matter what the cost.
Theo's not the only one who selflessly puts his life on the line. Julian is also determined to see Kee to safety. And Jasper, an old hippie-ish friend of Theo's who lives hidden in a forest, makes a courageous decision to keep his pals alive. So do several others along the way, including a couple of kindhearted refugees.
Beneath its thick layers of political hypothesizing, humanistic ideals and atheistic worldview, Children of Men paints a powerful picture of what life would be like without children. The Bible states that "children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3). Some translations refer to kids as a "blessing" and a "heritage." Based on these and countless other scriptures, it's safe to say that God is manifest through every child's entry into the world. So what would happen if that blessing turned into a curse?
Without ever referencing God or His truth, this movie examines that question by portraying a bleak, hopeless and lifeless existence. While adults are shown to be naturally evil and prone to war against each other, children—or at least the memory of them—stand as the rectifying force of innocence, purity and good. It's the voices of children, the film essentially concludes, that hold all mankind's hope for tomorrow.
A group of fire-and-brimstone protestors wield signs declaring God's vengeance on the earth and urging people to repent. A character explains the hopeless times by saying, "In His anger [God] has taken away what's most precious to us." A couple of soldiers make the sign of the cross upon seeing Kee's baby.
A multi-faith woman who initially protects Kee frequently utters mantras such as "shantih shantih shantih." (The Hindu blessing, which, loosely translated, wishes a person "peace that passes understanding" is also included in the film's closing credits.) At a makeshift funeral, she's also shown moving her hands over the aura of the deceased person and, in New Age fashion, sending the individual's spirit on to the afterlife. And when she's put in danger, she begins to pray to Saint Gabriel, asking for help. Later, Kee comments on the woman doing her "voodoo woodoo" and says she was told it was good for her baby.
Jasper waxes poetic about Theo and Julian's relationship, stating it was a pure example of how "everything is a mythical battle between faith and chance." It was chance, Jasper says, that the couple met each other in a crowd of protestors; the son they eventually had was "their faith put in practice." When that little boy died during the Flu Pandemic of 2008, Jasper says, "Theo's faith lost out to chance." The old man then reasons that because life has the final say-so between the two (instead of people), it's pointless to bother caring—presumably about spiritual matters.
The parallels between Kee's savior baby being the "miracle the whole world has been waiting for" and Jesus Christ are obvious, and the connection is furthered by the film's Christmas Day release. Nonetheless, there's not a single mention of Jesus aside from His name being used as a curse word.
Theo and Julian both refer to their past sexual relationship on different occasions. Theo jokes about Julian promising him "a little action" and how, in previous times, his main goal was simply to "get laid." They exchange a couple of kisses. After joking that she is a virgin, the promiscuous Kee admits that she's clueless who her baby's father is because she rarely even knows the names of the men she sleeps with. In fact, you get a sense from her character that in an infertile world, there's little to prevent a free-for-all approach to sex. (AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections and diseases are never mentioned.)
Though not precisely sexual in nature, a lineup of persecuted male refugees briefly appears wearing underwear. To display her pregnant state, Kee removes her top, and the camera gets a shot of her bare breasts before she covers them with an arm. Her delivery of the baby goes beyond the usual movie portrayal of childbirth. While Kee's private areas are obscured by darkness, we get a graphic shot of the baby being pushed out and born—attached umbilical cord and all.
Rather than simply allude to a dark, wicked world at war, Children of Men shows it in gritty detail. As a group attacks a car full of passengers, a woman is shot in the throat and blood drenches her body. Countless individuals are shot in cold blood—including innocent refugees, women and police officers—while others are held at gunpoint. Still others die from gunfire exchanged during street warfare. An unarmed old man is repeatedly shot in the hand, chest and head. Foreigners who have already died or are close to death are shown being dumped out of high-rise buildings and burned to keep people warm at night. A gruesome visual includes several human charred remains along the side of a road. Another shows horses in the same condition. A woman wails over her dead and bloodied loved one.
During an intense scene in which Theo, Kee and the baby make their way through a dilapidated building under heavy gunfire, several onlookers become human shields. One man's lower body is shown after it's crushed by a large piece of debris. As a group travels by bus through a refugee camp, we see people fighting, several foreigners lined up for execution and a row of dead bodies covered by blankets. Large and ultra-realistic explosions go off near main characters.
A military officer hits a woman in the face. She later returns the favor by pummeling him with a large stick. Theo eventually whacks the man across the face. It's conveyed that the world's youngest person, an 18-year-old South American male, was stabbed by a fan, who was then murdered by a mob of onlookers.
Crude or Profane Language
Characters use the f-word and s-word almost 75 and 25 times, respectively. Jesus' name is abused more than a dozen times; God's gets profaned twice. Milder profanities include Kee calling her child "the little b--tard." Politically motivated songs during the closing credits include six uses of "c--t" and other sexually crude references.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Theo drinks and smokes ... a lot. So much so that others use beer and liquor as a means to coerce the government man into action. They also comment frequently on his excessive use, and refer to him as an alcoholic. He's shown drinking various kinds of ale in large portions, and he's constantly taking swigs from a flask that rarely escapes his sight. He also mentions being hung over. Theo and his cousin drink wine with a meal, and empty bottles of beer and other liquors sit on the table. Theo and others smoke cigarettes throughout.
Jasper, who deals weed to border patrol guards. proudly shares his homegrown marijuana with others (including a pregnant Kee, who, while not shown smoking it, appears among the group enjoying it). Julian recalls once spiking Theo's coffee with the dissociative anesthetic ketamine.
Other Negative Elements
After telling his invalid wife he loves her, Jasper (offscreen) gives her a dose of Quietus, a "peaceful" suicide drug. The product is shown and advertised a few times throughout the movie as a means for individuals to choose when to "check out" on their own terms, adding to the desperate, depressing tone of this future world.
A broke Theo bets on dog races to try to earn some cash. He lies to his boss in order to skip out on a day of work.
Based on the 1992 sci-fi novel from English baroness P.D. James, Children of Men eschews nifty hovercrafts and robot helpers in favor of a gray, cold, industrial and run-down future-world only George Orwell could love. What beauty remains of the English countryside seems to exist on borrowed time, as is the case for the human condition.
In the midst of this harsh hopelessness, a baby is born to save the world. And just as Mary and Joseph struggled to find a place of refuge to harbor humanity's Redeemer, Theo fights his way through the chaos of a war-torn civilization to protect his world's savior. That's not to say Children of Men is a spiritual movie. While believers may extrapolate matters of faith from this thought-provoking story, its makers clearly intend this to be a political film. Government is shown at its worst, even mimicking terrorists' acts at the cost of innocent lives to maintain fear (and control) among its people. Dialogue revolves around the politics of a propaganda-led society. Heroes are political activists, political cartoonists and human-rights group members.
As such, the project offers both a not-so-subtle warning for modern-day politicians and a heartfelt statement underscoring the value of children. Both are messages that need to be heard. But both get overshadowed by 1) gaps in the story, and 2) an even darker cloud of unnecessary content.
What caused the outbreak of infertility in the first place? For that matter, why is Kee suddenly fertile? What is the Human Project, and why does Kee need to reach its members so badly? What led to the only-alluded-to global political chaos, and why has England been able to survive such turmoil? None of these issues are resolved. And even if the filmmakers felt these "loopholes" were insignificant in their quest to create an overall sense of intrigue and to incite thought about what might loom ahead—which they do exceedingly well—such provocation comes with graphic illustrations, so to speak, that are as dark and disturbing as the future they forecast.