The Road Movie Review - Mania.com



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  • Movie: The Road
  • Rating: R
  • Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Garret Dillahunt, Michael K. Williams and Molly Parker
  • Written By: Joe Penhall
  • Directed By: John Hillcoat
  • Distributor: The Weinstein Company
  • Series:

The Road Movie Review

The Road Movie Review

By Rob Vaux     November 23, 2009

 

Science fiction filmmaking doesn't get more profound or moving than The Road. Indeed, it embodies everything the genre is supposed to be about, using hypothetical supposition to illuminate the deepest truths of the human condition. The scenario it posits has been explored a thousand times before (the end of the world and what happens afterwards) but rarely has it seemed so chillingly believable. So too does its earnest defense of basic humanism--in our ability to hold onto our souls, even in the most appalling circumstances--resonate with raw, unvarnished strength.
 
We never learn what causes the film's apocalypse, but whatever it is, it's as bad as they come. Plant and animal life is essentially extinct; the trees have all died and great forests of them now crash down one by one into the ash-strewn landscape. There are no more governments or social organizations. Those few humans who survive are reduced to scavenging among the ruins, hoping for an odd can of peas… or else turning on their fellows to claim the only fresh meat available. The possibility of cannibalism deeply troubles the unnamed protagonist (Viggo Mortensen).
 
While he refuses to consider the possibility himself, he has a twelve-year-old son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) to look after, and would rather put a bullet in both their heads than end up on someone's dinner menu. The two of them are heading south--from where or to where, we never quite know, save that things might be better where they're going. The need to find that hypothetical sanctuary counters the fatalistic realization that this may truly be the end, giving father and son alike the power to soldier on.
 
Director John Hillcoat envisions this world in a perpetual state of winter. The landscape remains uniformly gray, broken only by the remnants of our former civilization rapidly succumbing to the elements. Emaciated survivors prowl the fringes like living corpses, opting to survive by any means necessary and destroying who they are in the process. Like the best post-apocalyptic films, The Road recognizes perils beyond the mere physical, and with a child who literally means everything to him, Mortensen's hero is sore pressed to avoid them all. He has an instinct for survival, as evinced by earlier interactions with his wife (Charlize Theron) while the world crumbles around them. But in his battles with monstrosity, he runs the risk of becoming a monster himself: casting out decent souls who may need his help just because he can't trust them to play square with him. When blended with Mortensen's natural intensity, it creates a figure at once compelling and frightening, the perfect embodiment of this stunning global death rattle.
 
The overall plausibility of the vision accompanies strangely surreal moments, manifesting in a quieter subtext which ironically reinforces the film's realism. The rare occupied house takes on aspects of a fairy tale witch's abode, while approaching people look strikingly monstrous despite their comparatively normal faces. The original book by Cormac McCarthy is purportedly more overtly allegorical (I haven't read it), though it's hard to imagine his prose holding more devastation than the images on display here.
 
And yet even in the midst of the bleakest movie atmosphere in years, glimmers of something better arise. A junebug, a rainbow near a waterfall, an unexpected cache of food… small bursts of hope appear out of nowhere, sometimes preceding a moment of sheer horror but reminding us that the struggle is still worthwhile. That remains The Road's strongest asset: its refusal to submit to its own bleak view. It takes a huge effort to balance basic human dignity against a calamity so great: either one side or the other is bound to feel like a cop-out. But Hillcoat understands that the veracity of one hinges on the persistence of the other, binding them together in a way which strengthens both halves of the equation. It certainly doesn't make for light entertainment, but its power cannot be denied, and for all of its bleak content, the final equation proves surprisingly optimistic. Victory lies in the battle, not the resolution, and our own proclivities can either lift us through that coming night or hasten its arrival. It's all up to us: a message The Road delivers with impeccable perfection.

 

READ: Viggo Mortensen Interview

See the Latest Trailer for The Road HERE

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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needaname85 10/30/2009 3:57:41 AM

The book is fantastic and I can't wait to see this. Great review.

How are you reviewing it already? I thought it was coming out in December or something???

Hobbs 10/30/2009 7:26:14 AM

Tbis book sucked Shirly Manson balls...major yawner.  If it follows the book this two hour movie is going to feel like its 12 hours long, trust me.

shadowprime 10/30/2009 7:38:16 AM

 

NOT trying to provoke fans of the book, or the movie... just making a very very very selfabsorbed comment here...

Trying to picture what mood I would have to be in to say "Hey... lets go see THE ROAD tonight".

I know, I know ... shallow, shallow, shallow of me.  But it just sounds SO bleak and dark and depressing. Just... unpleasant. More to be endured than enjoyed, you know?

Hey, may say more about where I am than it does about the movie, granted. Just saying - I can't see myself ever being in a mood where I would seek this out.

From Shallowville, maybe -

Shadow

ddiaz28 10/30/2009 8:18:02 AM

I agree with needaname and definitely disagree with Hobbs?  The book sucked?  Really?  I loved it and have been looking forward to this film for years.  Maybe because I'm a father I could completely relate to the position Viggo's character is put in.  Some of the situations they find themselves in are chilling and it looks, and by the review, sounds like they were captured well. 

As far as what mood you need to be in to watch this ... the mood to see a fantastic well made and acted film.  Sure it's a bleak and dark film but so are many great films of the past.  It's also more than just a dark film, it looks like it has a bit of everything: action, suspense, drama.  Everything but explosions and mediocre acting which should be a great experience after this summer of blockbusters. 

superrichtheman 10/30/2009 9:02:48 AM

I am glad to see they didn't explain how the world got to that state. I thought w/ earlier previews, that's what they were trying to do and I'm glad they are sticking to the book.  There are def some creepy parts to this movie.  Great review.

sharpe95th 10/30/2009 10:21:12 AM

"But. but I don't want to think when I watch a movie. I want to see big explosions---bwoooooosh--and see big robots bashing the hell out of each other--crash, biissshh, baaaangg--and see Megan Fox's T&A. When I go to a movie I don't want to think at ALL. IF I wanted to think in a movie then I'd watch a movie like The Road. But uh-uh, NOT for me. I don't want anyyyyyything in my head when I watch a movie. Uh-uh".

 

 

myklspader 10/30/2009 10:22:12 AM

 Did not read the book or this review but I liked “No Country for Old Men” so I am sure I will dig this too. Cannot wait for this to come out. 

Hobbs 10/30/2009 12:37:05 PM

I'm only talking book of course...I can't rip the movie because I didn't see it but yes, the book sucked.

To sum up the story.

They walk, they are hungry. they find some food and are hungry again. They find more food. The son complains alot.  They really need shoes, but when they find a whole stack of them in a house they don't grab any. They run into bad cannibals and escape and cannibals don't chase them. They walk again and they find more food then walk again. They get cold. They get hungry and need more food. They encounter more cannibals, avoid them and yet again the cannibals don't chase them. They get hungry again and wish they had better shoes.  

I can't take credit for that review but when I read it that summed up exactly what I read...I won't even get into all the other inconsistencies in the story.  It was one of those books i wish would just end and was thankful when it did.
 

This book won the Pulitzer Prize which means about as much as Obama winning the Nobel.

ddiaz28 10/30/2009 5:23:17 PM

You should have taken credit for that review.  It was great!  He forgot about the hiding though, there's lots of hiding.

And that was a great comment sharpe, real funny.  I'm all for the "shut your brain off" films as well (I LOVED Transformers 2), but a film like this looks to be always shines above the "crash, biissshh, baaaangg, T&A" movies.

 

themovielord 10/30/2009 8:07:59 PM

I've read the book... cannot wait for the movie... knowing that they are completely seprate this review invokes what I saw in my head while reading the book!

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