I do SO love a good dystopian future movie. Perhaps it’s my natural pessimism, or feeling about how messed up the world is, and I like to see those the long-range results of current trends imagined in the future. And this movie has a particularly vivid and vision of a dystopian future, very tied into the current state of the world.
It’s the London of 2027. People stopped being able to reproduce 18 years prior. The rest of the world, we are told, has absolutely collapsed, Britain being the only place left with any sort of functioning society. London is far from ideal, however, dirty and crumbling and garbage-strewn, with signs all over the place telling people to turn in immigrants. All immigrants are now illegal, and are shuttled off to camps where… we don’t really know what becomes of them. The government gives out a free suicide pill called “Quietus,” which is portrayed in an oft-running pharmaceutical-type ad that says “You decide when.” And when the government is telling you that if you killed yourself, well, we’d appreciate it, things are pretty bad.
We open on the day that the youngest living person has died—killed by someone trying to get his autograph or something. Clive Owen as Theo visits hippie-type Michael Caine as Jasper for some character establishing, and the next day is kidnapped by this anti-government group, where he meets his ex-wife, Julian, played by Julianne Moore. She asks him to escort this woman to meet the Human Project, who are doing something… in favor of humans, apparently. We never find out exactly what. If you’ve seen the trailer you know that by some [also unexplained] circumstance this woman is pregnant and Julian asks Theo to escort her to meet the human project. The woman is named Kee. Kee, get it? Key? Kee? Get it?
And that’s really about all I can tell you about the plot, because shockers come fast and come early. There are some real surprises, which keeps the viewer off-kilter and out of the ‘safe’ zone, and more able to absorb the disorienting changes of the future world conceived here. The ads for this movie have a quote saying it’s “the Blade Runner of the 21st century,” which is true insofar as that the environment this movie creates is at least equally important as its story. Its view of dwindling resources, collapsing infrastructure, everything falling apart due to having no money to repair it, increasing societal distrust focusing on a scapegoated population—immigrants, signs everywhere telling you to be suspicious, a conspicuous military providing for everyone’s ‘safety,’ and large-scale social loss of hope or will for living all seem grown organically from today’s world. Interestingly, this vision of a future world is quite similar to that of the dumped-to-video comedy, Idioocracy, in which everything has fallen apart because there’s simply no money to make repairs, and people are too stupid and self-centered to make them anyway.
The other thing one may or may not notice is the technique. There are a LARGE amount of long tracking shots that are used non-ostentatiously and work to keep the action involving and immediate. One of them, including walks up and down to different floors of a building as it is being shot at and blown apart are flat-out amazing. Maybe there’s some digital trickery making it less of an achievement as it appears to be, but it achieves its purpose, which is enough. I also really liked the seamless, non-ostentatious, and fully integrated nature of the special effects. They aren’t flashy and they aren’t showcased for maximum effect, which makes them seem more realistic and gives them more impact.
Finally, the last thing I liked is the open-ended nature of the story. We never find out what the Human Project, the destination for Clive and his charge, is. Are they good, or are they going to turn out to be bad? WHAT are they going to do with her, anyway? How do we know we can trust the people we trust? But all of this helps to emphasize the major theme of the film—the people of this future continuing to hope—and how, in this story at least, they have to continue to hope blindly, because they have no other option.
One last note: While the story of this movie didn't stay with me very long, it's vision of the future society was so vivid and plausible, it has pretty much become my standard when I think of how things will be in a few decades. I think often of this movie when reading the paper or just think about where the world is headed.
Yes, it’s very good and well made, with a disturbingly plausible view of an unpleasant future.