I'm still trying to decide what I think of the movie. Not sure if the CHUD buzz spoiled it, but I don't see it as the best movie of all time, or the best of the year.
It's brilliantly staged and shot, I'll say that. I would have preferred not to know about the single-take shots, especially the shot in the car, because I knew what was coming. Still, it's amazing what Cuaron did. He mentions something in his interview about the main character interacting with his surroundings, and wanting to capture that. I think the multiple long takes really does immerse you fully in the world. The dystopian future in London is wholly believable not because it's front-and-center, but rather because there are so many details in the background which are wholly believable. And the choreography of the shots, especially the end block-wide battle, makes everything seem much more real than any action or war movie. I'd even go so far as to say that the last 20 minutes are the best action movie I've ever seen. Brutal, yet completely believable. As is the birthing scene (which, for a second, made me think that the baby was born dead).
I guess I'm judging parts of the film using a frame of reference that's based on conventional movie making. Cuaron bucks so many basic trends it was difficult for me to get involved in the story. No closeups, no lingering takes (until the end), little exposition, the surprisingly quick death of Julianne Moore, the fact there was almost no time to dwell on the demise of many minor characters was a bit unusual. The movie moves so quickly that you can't really think about everything until after it's all over. Hell, even the big antagonists in the movie either die in the background (Patrick, with a well-placed squib) or off-screen (Luke).
Like others, I got a bit of a Half-Life 2 feel from the movie from the grim setting. But the way nearly every sympathetic character dies (most of them quite unceremoniously, either on-screen or implied) reminded me a lot of The Pianist. There's quite a lot more violence than I expected, and even though it was not over the top, it's more real, and it's rough to see the umpteenth person trying to help Theo and Kee take a bullet in the head.
I guess that's why I don't necessarily see the big hope message of the movie. The climax to me seems the descent of Theo and Kee on the staircase, and the temporary ceasefire. But ultimately, the humans fuck everything up and start killing each other again. Hope apparently, can only last for so long, and it seems to me that even if the Human Project is real and not part of a larger hoax and that they manage to repopulate the world, it will only be a matter of time before someone ruins it again. So ultimately, what was the point? I guess Theo's transformation and ultimate sacrifice in the hope of mankind's renaissance, but man, a lot more people paid the price for such a small chance.
It's definitely a movie I need to see again, although I think it'll be more for the technical aspects than the big emotional payoff. As far as moviemaking goes, though, this is some of the best stuff I've ever seen.
EDIT: Just realized that Jarvis Cocker's 'Running the World' plays over the credits. Which reminds me -- the soundtrack for this film is top notch.