by RISHI AGRAWAL
Baby Diego, the world’s youngest human, has just died at the age of 18 in the year 2027. The inexplicable infertility of mankind has thrown the world into chaos. England appears slightly better off than the rest of the world, due to its policy of aggressively detaining illegal immigrants, who have fled to England to escape the terror of the modern world.
Alfonso Cuaron has cleverly made an intelligent sci-fi thriller for adults. For those of you who think that science-fiction is not your thing, this movie does not suffer the trappings that have turned people off of the genre. We do not have flashy special effects, or gimmicks designed to show you how cool everything is in the future. What we have is an interesting setting to tell a tale about human beings.
Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is asked by his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) to secure travel papers to the coast for a young refugee named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey). In this future, travel is strictly regulated, but Theo has connections that will allow him to get these documents. Theo is only able to secure joint papers, so he has to accompany Kee on her journey. What is special about Kee is a shocking, revealing moment. Unfortunately, most of the plot summaries you will read of the movie give away the secret, as it is fairly integral to the movie. I will refrain, however.
Theo is a great anti-hero. He is not suave and he drinks entirely too much. He is someone who gets thrown into a situation that he may not have chosen, but he steps up to the task. While the reluctant hero is not a new concept, Owen brings his own interpretation to the role and delivers a memorable performance.
What does set the movie apart, aside from the depth of the characters, is the realism of the action. Cuaron does not suddenly take average people and turn them into action heroes who dive away from explosions and suddenly do everything perfectly. During one notable scene, there is a car chase sequence. The problem is that the car won’t start, which forces Theo to get out and push while others desperately try and start the car. During another sequence, Theo trips and injures his leg, causing him to have a slight limp for the remainder of the movie. Little things like this make the action seem unique.
The cinematography is also notable in the film. With the burned out buildings and dirty streets, the setting really does seem like London that has gone through a bad time. The streets are lined with cages, where refugees are held like animals. Everything seems empty: a result of the fact that the population is aging with no new births. Even the extras seem well-cast, tired-looking and not pretty. The filmmakers made sure not to cast very many young people in the roles of extras, allowing us to believe in the world that Cuaron has set up. Technology has progressed, but only slightly. The innovations seem plausible, given that technology is probably a low priority for scientists.
Cuaron has set up several struggles in this movie: the refugees vs. the government, the haves vs. the have-nots, and most important: the struggle of whether to live or whether to die. Theo is caught in the middle of all these conflicts. The most remarkable thing that Cuaron has done, however, is reminded us that no matter where we stand, we are still human beings. There are a few poignant moments through the film that remind us that there are certain emotions and feelings that are endemic to the human race.