The street battle where Clive Owen has to take cover in a battered building caused concern for the studio as it took fourteen days to prepare this one shot, with a delay of five hours every time it had to be reshot. It was shot over the course of two days, but only one complete take was actually captured on film. In the middle of one take, some blood spattered on the camera lens. Alfonso Cuarón nearly ruined this take by shouting "Cut!" but his voice was obliterated by the sound of tank and gunfire. Looking at the footage, Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki persuaded Cuarón to leave it in, and that is the shot that appears in the final film.
When Miriam is taken off the bus in the refugee camp you can hear the song "Arbeit Macht Frei" by The Libertines. "Arbeit macht frei," meaning "Work shall set you free," was written above the entrances of all Nazi death/concentration camps of World War II (with the exception of Buchenwald, where the entrance read "Jedem das Seine", engl.: "to each his own").
Sir Michael Caine plays an award-winning political cartoonist. In his house, you can see some of his cartoons in the background. They were drawn by Steve Bell, an award-winning political cartoonist for The Guardian newspaper.
When Miriam (Pam Ferris) is taken off the bus at Bexhill, the camera pans by several cages with prisoners inside. One of them is the infamous "hooded man" from the Abu Ghraib prison torture pictures. He is seen in the exact pose as the real pictures.
When Theo is walking down the ramp on Battersea Power Station, a stenciled image of two policemen kissing can be seen on a wall. The image was created by "Banksy", a British "guerilla artist" who specializes in that kind of work. Other Banksy works appear in the film, including a stenciled image of a child looking down a shop.
The long shot when the Fiat Multipla is attacked by terrorists, with all the passengers inside, demanded a camera rig that could rotate within the car. They used a rig developed by Doggicam Systems, and controlled by a stunt driver. A vehicle was modified to enable seats to tilt and lower actors out of the way of the camera, and the windshield was designed to tilt out of the way to allow camera movement in and out through the windshield. The single shot was shot in six takes over four locations, requiring a lot of transition work from the visual effects house Double Negative as it pans around inside the car. The cocktail, stunt driver, and motorcycle (from the moment it hits the car), windshield, blood, and roof, were all computer rendered with 3-D animation.
The cover of the Pink Floyd album "Animals" features a floating pig above the Battersea Power station, the "Ark of the Arts" in the film. This pig can be seen when Theo's car enters the Ark, and later when Theo speaks to his cousin. The album was released in 1977. The film is set in 2027, the LP's fiftieth anniversary.
Animals like Theo. The ginger cat on Jasper's sofa, the dogs at Tomasz and Emily's farm (to which he even comments the dogs don't like anyone), and the kittens in the farm house that crawl up Theo's leg.
The statue of David seen in the Ark of Arts is an existing movie prop, and it was filmed intact; however, during production, an Italian article was written about the loss of Italian cultural heritage, showing the statue with a missing leg. The idea stuck, and a part of the statue's left leg was therefore digitally removed in post-production.
When we first see Julian (Julianne Moore), she is in the interrogation room with Theo. Just after she states her name as "Julian", you can see a headline behind Theo that prominently displays the word "Moore", the actress' real name.
Newspaper headlines throughout the film read: Raid nabs refugees' weapons cache, AFRICA DEVASTATED BY NUCLEAR FALL OUT, U.S. TROOPS FULL ATTACK, EXTREMIST EXPLOSION A RIGHT ROYAL RIP OFF: CHARLES SHOULD BE THRONE OUT, MILITIAS OCCUPY CINCINNATI, BOZEMAN & SPOKANE, CHAOS IN REFUGEE CAMPS, FERTILITY DRUG KILLS! SURGEON ARRESTED, HORMONE ATTACKS: VIOLENT REACTION, 100 Suicides: Nation in Denial, RUSSIA IN CRISIS: Massive migration, Police put mosques under surveillance, Gatherings are forbidden, BOMBING OF SAUDI PIPELINE DISRUPTS WORLD'S OIL SUPPLY (Photo by Janice Palmer), REFUGEES BLAMED FOR INCREASE IN TERROR ATTACKS (Thursday April 6th, 2018), SOUTH COAST TOWNS TURNED INTO REFUGEE CAMPS (Tuesday February 11, 2020), PM DENIES "TORTURE" OF BRITISH CITIZENS, ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE DISMISSED AS A SHAM, DIRTY BOMB DETONATED IN MUNICH (Report by Photojournalist Janice Palmer), England bans ALL immigration completely, 25% INFERTILITY RATE (21.12.2008), Two years since last baby born, NO BABY HOPE ADMIT SCIENTISTS, WAR AND FAMINE LEAD TO MASS MIGRATION, JANICE PALMER questions Britain's ethical response to the refugee situation, MASSIVE MIGRATION, CHANNEL TUNNEL CLOSED, All foreigners now ILLEGAL, Refugees mass on Europe, MI5 DENY INVOLVEMENT IN TORTURE OF PHOTOJOURNALIST (photo of Janice Palmer. Monday 16.7.2018).
Children of Men was the first major motion picture known to legally use a sample from Freesound - licensed under a Creative Commons - in its production. The sound used was "male_Thijs_loud_scream.aiff" posted by the user thanvannispen to Freesound.org, and the film properly attributes the sample in the credits.
After screenwriter Paul Chart wrote the first version of the screenplay, it was re-written a few times by other screenwriters including Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Timothy J. Sexton, and Alfonso Cuarón. Finally the final version was written by David Arata, Cuarón, and Sexton. Clive Owen's insights greatly impressed Cuarón, and he contributed a great deal of uncredited work to the final script.
When Theo enters the dining room in Battersea power station, the large black and white mural behind him is Pablo Picasso's "Guernica." The same image is drawn on the wall of the tunnel which Theo and Kee use to escape in the rowboat. The painting was Picasso's reaction to General Francisco Franco's bombing of Guernica, Spain, the Basque capital, during the Spanish Civil War, which killed an estimated 1,600 civilians.
At the beginning of the film, as Theo leaves the coffee shop, a tall pointed building can be seen in the background. This building is called The Shard, and its construction began in 2009, three years after the movie was filmed. It was digitally added to the movie, which took place in 2027, sixteen years after The Shard was due to be completed.
When Theo arrives at work in the second scene, the words "Ministry Of Energy" are placed above the doors. This is in reference to George Orwell's "1984", which shares many of the same themes as this film. A recurring plot line in "1984", was that the government had terrifying "Ministries" for various specified functions.
Before Theo meets Jasper, a woman is speaking in a foreign language. The language is Serbian, the translation is: "Excuse me, we're hungry, excuse me, we're thirsty, please... It must be a mistake, please..."
In the scene where Jasper is describing how he and Theo met, you can hear choral music in the background. The music is Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder" or "songs of the death of children". The text of the piece is taken from a set of poems written by German poet Rückert. The poems were written in an effort to cope with the loss of his own two children.
The film never explains the reason for the infertility. This has been attributed to Cuarón's dislike for expository film: "There's a kind of cinema I detest, which is a cinema that is about exposition and explanations." He once said. "It's become a medium for lazy readers... Cinema is a hostage of narrative. And I'm very good at narrative as a hostage of cinema."
One of the most difficult scenes to film, from a production design standpoint, was the moment when Clive Owen's kidnappers take him to a room covered in newspaper. Every story on every newspaper had to be created specially for this scene, even though they're barely glimpsed.
The cities shown in the newscast that declares "The World Has Collapsed: Only Britain Soldiers On" are, in order: Paris, Moscow, Washington, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Brussels, Hong Kong, Berlin, Jakarta, New York, Stockholm, Rome, Shanghai, Caracas, Copenhagen, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Geneva, Marseilles, Lisbon, Seoul, Singapore, San Diego, Naples, Boston, and Antwerp. Julian mentions to a horrified Theo that her parents were in New York "when it (an unspecified catastrophe) happened". In the opening newscast, an image of a mushroom cloud can be seen hanging over New York City, in images reminiscent of 9/11, possibly due to a terrorist nuclear attack. Also, Theo and his cousin discuss another unspecified disaster that took place in Madrid, Spain.
Jasper (Sir Michael Caine) drives a Citroën CX, with some plastic add-ons in the front and back. The last one was produced in 1990. Other cars in the movie are the Renault Modus, Renault Avantime, Renault Megane II, and Fiat Multipla. There is also a wreckage of a Peugeot 206. All the "newer" cars in the movie were deliberately made to look aged and battered, despite being relatively recent models.
The title of the source novel and the movie, "Children of Men," comes from Psalm 90: "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations./Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God./Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men./For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night...."
In the Bexhill tower block scene, Theo is wearing a London 2012 Olympics fleece. During the bidding process which ran from July 2003 to December 2005, London bid successfully to host the XXX (2012) Olympiad. Other cities that bid were Havana, Istanbul, Leipzig, Madrid, Moscow, New York City, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro.
Many of the service rifles carried by the British armed forces are the XM8 rifle. It was intended to replace current U.S. M16/M4 variant service rifles by 2015-2020, but the U.S. Defense Department canceled its contract with the rifle's manufacturer, Heckler and Koch, in 2005. The rifle is now considered experimental.
It is known according to Islamic literature, that the prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven on a white horse-like creature named Buraq. In a long fighting scene, a white horse is seen during the Islamic rally.
The van, the Fishes use to kidnap Theo, has a Holden & Sons inscription written on it. It is a clear connection to J.D. Salinger's main protagonist in "The Catcher in the Rye", Holden Caulfied, who struggles throughout the entire book with rebellion against the system he finds is too oppressive, while also dealing with themes of maturity and identity.
Jasper (Sir Michael Caine) listens to Franco Battiato's cover of The Rolling Stone's song "Ruby Tuesday." Katey Sagal also sings a cover of the song, which is used in the television series Sons Of Anarchy (2008). This film, and that show, feature Charlie Hunnam.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The birth of Kee's baby was achieved by putting Clare-Hope Ashitey into a set-piece which had a fake lower body. A prop baby was pushed out of it for Clive Owen to hold. The prop baby was later digitally erased, and replaced by a fully moving CGI baby. Other effects, such as breath vapor, were also added digitally.
The film contains three extended tracking shots: when Kee gives birth (199 seconds), an ambush on a country road (247 seconds) and a raging street battle (454 seconds). Through careful editing and a little digital help, each of these scenes are not actually all one seamless shot, but very subtly spliced together.
In the movie, Theo and Julian's son Dylan died from a disease epidemic, while in the book Julian's character was the one that is pregnant and the one Theo is protecting. In the book, Theo is married and divorced Helen and had a daughter named Natalie who was killed when Theo backed out of the driveway and accidentally ran her over. Both the film and book show this death as the reason for either relationships not working. The movie changed and combined Julian and Helena while creating Kee.
Kee naming her daughter after Theo and Julian's child Dylan is especially fitting since the Welsh name is given to mean "son of the sea" or "born near the sea." Kee gives birth in the Bexhill refugee camp on the coast. She names Dylan in the final scene, which takes place on the water as Kee and Theo wait for the Human Project ship.
In an earlier version of the script, Jasper and Theo watch as Janice participates in a mass suicide organized by Quietus. Later on, Jasper lets himself get mauled by guard dogs in order to help Theo, Kee, and Miriam reach Bexhill.
Shantih, shantih, shantih," which Miriam says over Julian's dead body, Jasper says when he finds out Kee is pregnant, and appears at the very end of the credits, is the final line of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland," a poem that deals with the theme of infertility in the post World War I world. Originally from the Upanishads, it roughly translates to "the peace that passes understanding."
The name of the drug that is advertised throughout, "Quietus," provides a clue to its function ("quietus" is an antiquated medical name for the moment of death). It is also an allusion to William Shakespeare's Hamlet who contemplated making his "quietus" with a "bare bodkin" (unsheathed dagger) when discussing suicide.
At the safe house, Jasper discusses the death of Theo's son Dylan during a flu pandemic. During the scene, the soundtrack plays music from Kindertotenlieder ("Child Death Songs") by Gustav Mahler, a song lamenting the death of the artist's children.
When Patric executes the Russian man, who is helping Theo and Kee to find a boat, he is singing a local Newcastle song called "The Blaydon Races". It starts something like "All the lads and lasses with all their smiling faces, gannin along the Scotswood Road to see the Blaydon Races".