No, I'm not exaggerating.
It is at heart a journey movie. (Protag goes on a quest/journey usually with another person to save something.) Theo, our protag, gets sucked into a journey to get a young woman to safety (Im trying to not give away to much if you havent seen the trailers...).
This journey is heart wrenching and harrowing, as all good movie journeys are. The messages/themes in this movie that are weaved around the journey, amplify the movie and are built within our world/within the world of the movie. Sadly, it assumes that the world will always be at war somewhere and amps that up 12 notches to show how horrifying it is to mankind. It lays out the politics and the structure of the world and makes no assumptions, nor leads you to any conclusions...it wants you to see it for what it is and how this is our presnt and our future and our past.
There are moments of true beauty in the war horror of the movie, more poignant because of the violence it is surrounded by.
Did I mention Clive Owen is a phenomenal actor? *sigh* I hope he gets more noticed now...I've been a fan of his since the late 90's and his parts in Croupier and Greenfingers...He is a very understated actor, but much of his best expression is in his eyes. His eyes (and his parts) are usually world weary, but he takes it to an entirely new level with this part. They start off dead, they grow to have hope, and in the end, he is steel resolve to get the job done no matter the cost. I could watch him forever.
I love the fact that Cuarón assumes you are smart enough to get the world he has created. He explains nothing. His exposition is nearly nonexistant. It is very very well weaved into the story, the set design and background stuff is quite dense. I just wish he had explained some of the relationships between characters a bit better. (FYI - its also very English. Very pointedly so.)
But thats part of the spiffy-ness of a movie that makes you think. And this movie makes you think.
It challenges many assumptions you may have had of the righteousness of "Homeland Security" and the path the world is currently on. It makes you consider what you would do in this situation. How would you be affected if faced with the reality of the cheapness of life? Is life worth anything if there are no more children? How hard would you be willing to fight for that world?
Please go see the most intelligent movie made in 2006.