Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, & Hawk Ostby, based on the novel by P.D. James
Theo (Clive Owen) has given up political activism and is simply trying to get by in a bleak dystopian world. As women have become infertile, and the youngest humans are now 18, the end of humanity is — to quote 28 Days Later — very fucking nigh.
Britain has become a police state continually battling violence. Official propaganda boldly states that the rest of the world is now in ruins, but “Britain Soldiers On!” The government has launched a Naziesque crackdown on illegal immigrants, and a domestic terrorist group called The Fish is fighting back. Oh, and the authorities are helpfully distributing suicide kits along with rations, encouraging people to go ahead and get out of the way before the eleventh hour. (But marijuana is still illegal — go figure.)
Theo’s estranged wife Julian (Julianne Moore) enlists his help smuggling a young woman out of the country. He eventually learns that Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) is eight months pregnant — the first pregnancy carried to term in over 18 years — and The Fish are helping get her safely out of Britain before she falls into the government’s clutches.
This movie has an amazing cast, which also includes Michael Caine as a trustworthy, good-humored stoner, Pam Ferris as a midwife with relentless faith, Peter Mullen as a mentally unbalanced soldier, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as a terrorist.
But the aspect of this film that really stands out is the worldbuilding. The early scenes introducing us to this world — which seem bright but leached of color — have an almost surreal quality. These scenes are rich with detail, from the advertisements for suicide kits to the ubiquitous announcements that illegal immigrants must be reported to the authorities.
After Theo agrees to help Kee, finding his purpose, the scenes feel more real, somehow, without these bright but lifeless colors. Yet the film is full of bleak, barren landscapes and eviscerated war zones. In one particularly memorable scene a deer ambles through an abandoned school, no longer needed in a world without children.
Despite the film’s dark tone and the cruelty and violence in the movie, the overriding theme is hope. This is a story in which faith is eventually rewarded and the protagonist, against all odds, finds a reason to keep going.