Children of Men

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Whether he wants to or not.

Last one to die, please turn out the light.

Children of Men is a 2006 childless dystopian science fiction film co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It is loosely based on the novel The Children of Men by P. D. James.

It's 2027, and humanity has ceased reproducing for the past two decades. Society is collapsing. It appears that the United Kingdom is the only remaining civilization in the world, and it is a grey and dreary place. Terrorism and refugeeism runs high.

Theo, a white-collar worker, is distracted from his rut when an old girlfriend approaches him for a favor - to help smuggle a refugee to safety. Theo agrees to protect Kee on a dangerous journey, past riots, an oppressive government, and betrayals, to bring her to safety.

Tropes used in Children of Men include:
  • Action Survivor: Theo spends most of the film running away from people with guns who want to kill him. But then, he doesn't actually survive.
    • And Marishka. She uses a hammer to the head to deal with a jerkass.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The descriptions of Theo in the book do not exactly call Clive Owen to mind, but it's irrelevant to the story, so we're not expected to believe Owen is Hollywood Homely.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In order to bring the book to the big screen, several key character roles were switched and streamlined, a Love Triangle was eliminated, in order to focus more on The Chase. It all works in the book, but would have been quite clunky in a 2 and half hour movie. Not only that but Theo's occupation and overall character was switched from an Oxford historian who had to rely on his brain to a former activist who had to think quickly on his feet. It works perfectly in terms of the action-filled movie.
  • The Alcoholic: Theo.
  • Anyone Can Die: Did anyone expect so many of the main characters to die so suddenly?
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, on the way to Class 3.
  • Badass Longcoat: While it is a pretty normal wool, business trench-coat, it's pretty badass how even though Theo undergoes multiple wardrobe changes in the film, for better or for worse, one article of clothing is constant: the coat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The optimistic interpretation.
  • Blast Out: After Theo and Kee bring the baby through a silenced battle, all it takes is one bullet for the fight to resume as if it had never happened.
    • In the movie it's some idiot firing an RPG that hits a APC dangerously close to Kee and Theo. The military retaliates explosively, every soldier shooting their guns as the tanks start to level the building.
  • Camera Abuse
  • Childless Dystopia: The whole point of the movie.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: After Julian dies Theo goes to light a cigarette but ends up falling to the ground sobbing.
  • Crapsack World: No babies are being born, dooming humanity to a slow but inevitable extinction. As a result, society has completely broken down, with pretty much the entire world being turned into nuclear wastelands or lawless war zones. Britain, possibly the only remaining pocket of civilization left, is a horribly authoritarian and xenophobic dystopia.
  • Creator Cameo: P.D.James can be spotted in the cafeteria scene.
  • Cute but Cacophonic: Baby Dylan simply has annoying cry when scared or upset, Especially in the end.
  • Dead Guy, Junior: Kee eventually settles on naming the baby after Theo and Julian's dead son Dylan.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Not in this film it's not. Fall down and shut up, no Final Speeches allowed, surviving characters will be busy running for their lives.
  • Delivery Stork: Used as the basis of an in-universe joke.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The heroes are trying to smuggle a refugee (i.e. illegal immigrant) across the border and out of the country, and this ends up saving civilization as they know it (or so they hope). Cynical pundits didn't miss the opportunity to mock the apparent Space Whale Aesop.
    • The ads used to sell Quietus (the suicide pills) are deliberately meant to resemble antidepressant ads.
  • Driven to Suicide: Not for a particular character, but for society in general. Given that there is no hope for a future because no children have been born in 18 years, the government rations suicide kits and anti-depressants.
  • Due to the Dead: Julian.
  • Empty Shell: Theo, due to the death of his and Julian's son from an illness.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: Alfonso Cuaron, the Director, is very fond of this technique and the film is famous for it. The action-climax is shot in one long shot in is over seven and a half minutes long.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The British government, the last functioning government on the planet, has become an oppressive regime, while the Fishes are sadistic terrorists who would kill their own leader if it furthers their goal.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Theo. Pretty much every scene incorporates some kind of animal in them and they are always friendly to Theo.
  • Gender Rarity Value: In the film, a fertile female is the sought-after rarity. In the book, it's a lack of fertile men.
  • Generic Graffiti: "Last one alive please turn out the light."
  • Granola Girl: Miriam.
    • Also Jasper, though he's male.
  • Gray and Grey Morality: The government and the "Fishes" are equally as radical and dangerous.
  • Hellhole Prison: Bexhill Refugee Camp is basically a post-modern KZ.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Julian is played by Julianne Moore.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted in two cases. During an attack by the Fishes, Julian is shot in the throat and bleeds out. Theo is shot in the stomach by Luke and lasts a few hours before finally dying in the boat well out of the city.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Syd looks like a good guy with some rough edges at first, but is later revealed to be a heartless opportunist.
  • Jittercam
  • Just Before the End: With no babies being born, humanity is doomed, but it will still be some time before everyone dies. Doesn't stop the world from descending into nationalistic, nihilistic mayhem.
  • Kill'Em All: The final scene leaves only one main character and her newborn baby alive, with all other major characters either dead or presumably dead. People are dying left and right as soon as the main plot gets going.
  • Leave the Camera Running: For at least 15 minutes as Theo guides Kee and the newborn through the war zone.
  • The Load: Miriam means well, but she's hopelessly out of her depth and has a tendency to lock up and start praying whenever things get intense. That, or completely panic. She does however redeem herself with her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Kee ("key" meaning the most important thing, or the thing that opens a previously locked door).
    • Theo Faron is Greek for "The God of the Lighthouses".
  • Mood Whiplash: Frequently. Interrupting a light scene with horrible violence and death is a favorite.
  • Moral Myopia: Patric's reaction to Theo inadvertently killing the other assassin. Could be because the kid was so young, and young people are held to a deity status in a society with no future. Also, it was his cousin.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • "What about Liverpool?"
    • "That thing in Madrid was a real blow for art." "Not to mention people."
    • "Were your parents in New York when it happened?" It was a nuclear explosion if the quick shots of scenes from a government propaganda film are to be believed.
  • The Oner: Part of the visceral thrill of the film is the way many action scenes are filmed in long, continuous takes that make it seem like the viewer is inside the scene. The three longest shots make up about 1/8th of the film's running time.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: As Theo runs through a bus filled with people, someone gets hit with a bullet, making blood splatter onto the camera.
    • This little touch was actually an accident. After the take, the director saw the blood on the lens and thought they'd have to re-shoot the whole absurdly long monster of a shot, but the cinematographer said "But that's fucking brilliant, leave it!" and it made the cut.
  • Pietà Plagiarism
  • Psycho for Hire: Patric.
  • Quick Nip: Theo, constantly.
  • Real is Grey: It's Britain in winter. What do you expect?
  • Sacrificial Lamb: One of the highest-billed stars Julianne Moore dies 25 minutes into the movie.
  • Shout-Out: Two serious ones at the camp at Bexhill.
    • The first comes when Miriam is pulled off the bus, The Libertines' "Arbeit Macht Frei" can be heard in the background. The song title translates to "Work shall set you free", which was written above the entrance to Auschwitz.
    • As the bus drives away, the "hooded man" from Abu Ghraib prison can be seen in one of the cages, in the exact pose from the infamous torture pictures.
    • When Theo is dining with his cousin Nigel, Pablo Picasso's painting 'Guernica' hangs on the wall behind them.
    • A more lighthearted one appears early in the film: a pig-shaped balloon floating over the Battersea power station (which has been turned into a museum). It's a reference to the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals.
    • Battersea Power station being turned into an art gallery is itself a shout out to fellow power station Bankside, slightly down river, which is now the Tate Modern (which provided the internal set for the scene where Theo entered the gallery).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Continually switching both sides of the middle point.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Used as a form of lazy suicide.
    • Interesting fact: Although Theo tries to smoke several times over the course of the film, he is never allowed to finish a cigarette.
  • Stealth Pun: Theo's last act in the film is to lead the girl to the buoy.
  • Sterility Plague: This trope forms the basic premise of the movie. Much like a George A Romero film, it isn't explained what exactly caused it, leaving the director free to focus on the story instead of padding the film with exposition.
  • Surprisingly-Sudden Death
  • Technical Pacifist: Theo bashes a couple of heads in self-defense (with a car door and car battery, respectively), but not once during the course of the film does he ever pick up a gun.
    • Not so much Technical Pacifist as just trying to survive. At no point does he even have an opportunity to arm himself, anyway.
  • Third Person Person: Syd doesn't know why they want to get inside the camps. Syd doesn't want to know. Syd doesn't care.
  • A Truce While We Gawk: At the climax of the film.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Done deliberately subtly. Cars, for example, may look ordinary at first glance, but are more unfamiliar upon closer inspection. They are also equipped with hi-tech heads-up displays (e.g. projecting the speedometer or warning notices onto the windscreen). London buses carry scrolling holographic adverts on the side, contrasting with the rickshaws now present on London's streets. Miniaturization and versatility of mobile communication devices and portable computers has also advanced considerably since the 2000s. The juxtaposition of mildly futuristic technology and slowly decaying public infrastructure gives the setting an almost Post Cyber Punk feel. Some of the in-universe advertising and tech can be glimpsed in this featurette.
  • Unlikely Hero: Theo. He begins the movie as an incredibly apathetic bureaucrat, feeling nothing about the world around him. However, throughout the film he is shown to be genuinely kindhearted, which distinguishes him from so many post/pre-apocalyptic story protagonists.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Syd.

Jasper: Make sure you call him a 'fascist pig'.

  • Wave O Babies: Inverted.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Fishes. And especially Luke. They want to eliminate Britain's horrible oppression of refugees. Their solution? Use Kee's newborn baby as a trump card. The Fishes certainly don't object to killing whomever gets in their way - including their own leader.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Deliberately invoked. There is the odd vague suggestion of the second coming. Kee jokes that she's a virgin mother, but admits that she doesn't know who the father is. Since we don't know the identity of the father it can be assigned to "God". Later in the film during the long take there is a lot of religious suggestion in the peoples' reactions to the child. You can take the idea as merely cultural context (the child literally represents the salvation of all mankind, how else do you think people would react?) or as a genuine possible interpretation.
    • Also Theo as surrogate father and protector (i.e. Joseph) And his switch to wearing sandals halfway through.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Froley if it's a boy, Bazooka if it's a girl. Though she finally settles on Dylan, to honor Theo's dead son.
  • World Half Empty: The human race has lost its source of new life. All nations in the world have plunged into mayhem, save for Britain, now under the oppressive heel of an authoritarian state. Refugees are everywhere, and the last hope for humanity may well go into the wrong hands.