By EW Staff
Updated August 10, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Children of Men: Jaap Buitendijk

One might assume it took a little creative recalibration for Alfonso Cuarón to go from the cloistered enchantment of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to the pre-apocalyptic dystopia at the heart of this futuristic cautionary tale, adapted from P.D. James’ novel, about an impending era in which the human race faces extinction unless a disenchanted former activist (Clive Owen) can deliver the last pregnant woman on Earth to safety. But rather than change his approach, Cuarón, best known for humanistic odes to personal transformation like Y Tu Mamá También, shot this as if it were an intimate indie drama, using handheld cameras and existing locations instead of shiny futuristic sets. Think of this as science fiction unplugged. ”He gave it a real newsreel effect,” says Michael Caine, who plays a Yoda-like pot-smoking hippie Owen’s character encounters on his odyssey. ”It makes the reality more real and therefore even more horrible.”

”Early on we decided this film had to be the anti-Blade Runner,” explains Cuarón, who became interested in James’ novel for its allegorical parallels to the political turmoil surrounding the immigration debate. ”In this universe, England is the last remnant of civilization and the rest of the world is streaming in. This is all about how ideology gets between people.”

The production resembled an experiment in creative socialism. ”Clive, Julianne [Moore], and Michael were all my co-writers,” says Cuarón, marveling at Owen’s story sense — ”he has the most amazing nose for bulls—” — and Caine’s willingness to go where no knighted actor has gone before. ”This is the first movie where you see Michael Caine smoke pot and fart on screen,” Cuarón says. ”And with such gusto!”

Children of Men

  • Movie
  • R
  • 109 minutes
  • Alfonso Cuarón