An extremely detailed review of Children Of Men written by Peter Bradshaw of the Media Guardian. The following passage covers the main themes brought up in the film and how it goes about addressing these to the audience:
What will the end of the world look like? As shabby and nasty as the way it looks here is my guess. This explosively violent future-nightmare thriller, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and adapted from the novel by PD James, has simply the most extraordinary look of any movie around: a stunningly convincing realisation of a Beirut-ised London in the year 2027, in which terrorist bombs have become as dreary and commonplace as cancer.
No one does dystopian satire like the English and this story is in a recognisably vernacular tradition, though owing as much to John Wyndham as George Orwell. It actually reminded me of bygone television chillers such as Barry Hines's Threads and the 1970s classic Survivors, with their distinctive and now unfashionably high-minded determination to confront the worst outcomes imaginable. It is, perhaps, odd that Cuarón sticks with the 1992 novel's reluctance to predict the internet, and media-watchers will be intrigued to see that in 2027 the London Evening Standard has evidently seen off web and freesheet competition to stay in its monopoly pole position on the capital's sandbagged streets. But despite the stylisations and grandiloquent drama, there is something just so grimly and grittily plausible about the awful world conjured up here, and the full-on urban warfare scenes really are electrifying. Clive Owen stars as Theo, a former radical protester, who in defeated middle age has become an alcoholic and low-ranking employee of a government department: a miserable guy in a miserable world. Pollution has rendered humanity infertile. The world's youngest person is all of 18 years old and there is a global malaise of disorder and despair, which our right little, tight little island is toughing out, offering its citizens free suicide pills with the Shakespearean brand-name of Quietus. Britain's relative calm and prosperity have attracted waves of illegal immigrants; it is the responsibility of the UK's Homeland Security department to pen them into vast mesh-fenced internment camps, the biggest of which is a gigantic caged shanty-town in Bexhill - a very English Guantanamo-on-Sea.
Theo's world is further shattered when he is abducted by a terrorist group called the Fishes, led by his former lover Julian (Julianne Moore), an unrepentant activist who inveigles him into helping her smuggle one of their number out of the country. This is Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a terrified young woman with a sensational secret, whom the terrorists want to use for their own ends. Kee looks to Theo for help - a very unpromising hero, who is hardly less scared than she is. But Theo recovers some of his idealism and even romanticism in protecting her.
Cuarón's movie has softened the blow of James's book just a little, but the cinema screen here is like an opened window on to a world of Arctic fear and despair. His script is a little cumbersome occasionally: some characters are required to deliver awkward set-piece speeches with bullets whistling past their nose. So much else is outstanding, though. The hard, flat, cold images recorded by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki - reporting back from the futureworld of decay dreamt up by production designers Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland - are stunning. Cuarón's gun battle between the terrorists and the army is a bravura piece of work, deploying a very scary sort of first-person shooter graphics; incredibly, it turns Bexhill into a Middle East warzone, like the strange Vietnam of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket - famously filmed in the surreal moonscape of London's undeveloped Docklands. And the first terrorist detonation hit like a punch in the solar plexus. There are witty and shrewd small parts for Michael Caine, as the ageing hippy ganja dealer who hooks Theo and Kee up with a counter-cultural support network, Peter Mullan as the psychotic border guard and Danny Huston as Nigel, the elegantly despairing apparatchik who salvages great works of art from the philistine mob.
One of the cleverest touches is the ancient, manky sweatshirt Theo wears -advertising the London Olympics of 2012. To us, it is a symbol of London's last-ever demonstration of untroubled national rejoicing, when this country was awarded the Games, before that mood was cruelly shattered by the 7/7 bombings. Now London 2012 is Theo's veteran-badge of despair, and a memento of his lost career in political dissent.
So what would happen to us all, psychologically, if the end of the world was at hand? Danny Huston's mandarin tells Theo that he personally gets by from day to day by simply not thinking about what is happening, and his stunned, bleak acquiescence in the creeping horror of global death is symptomatic of the vast spiritual sterility which ushered in the catastrophe in the first place.
Freaky chiliastic cults start springing up: the Renouncers and Repenters - whose frenzied self-laceration reminded me a little of Roy Andersson's millennial fantasy Songs from the Second Floor, in which a little girl is sacrificed to stave off the last judgment. But what Cuarón's film suggests is that despair and disgust would manifest themselves overwhelmingly in tyranny. A mass, irrational longing for punishment would gather; checks and restraints on the political classes' natural tendency towards repression would be removed, and our energy to resist the agencies of the state would be eroded. All of these ideas make a very grim backdrop to an excellent thriller. Cuarón has created the thinking person's action movie.