Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Road: Movie Review

The Road: Movie Review

Rating 8/10
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert DuVall, Guy Pearce, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: John Hillcoat
Prepare yourself for a particularly depressing end of the world.
In the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a father (Mortensen) and his son (Smit-McPhee) are journeying across America after the world ended in some unknown way.(Though it appears to have been nuclear)
As they head south at the urging of the father's wife (Charlize Theron) and search for food, shelter and fuel, the duo meet all manner of problems - thieves, cannibals, and worst of all, their own paranoia and fears.
Against a backdrop of a devastated planet, survivors who are reduced to horrendous scavenging ways to get by and an ever increasing cold front, the duo find themselves unable to escape the inexorable physical and mental horrors which surround them.
To describe The Road as compellingly bleak may seem a little odd - but when you have a film which finds the worst that men can do and has a protagonist who would rather shoot his only son to avoid him being eaten alive, it's clearly not a laugh riot.
What emerges over the course of two hours is a powerfully loaded discussion and contemplation on what it means to be human and how the last vestiges of humanity are gradually worn down as time wears on.
Through billowing skies thick with smoke, and with most of the "action" onscreen taking place amid the backdrop of grey colours, the pair soldier on - and as an audience, you may feel at times like you do.
It's frustrating to report there is no real explanation of what happened to end the world as it did (although it does lead to a lot of discussion once the lights go up) - and while that's fine for a film (after all, we don't need everything spelt out), a little context would have made the sacrifice of one character more poignant rather than feeling odd and unexplainable.
There's a mournful tone throughout and both Mortensen and Smit-McPhee carry the screen well; newcomer Smit-McPhee brings a resonance and humanity to his character - and Mortensen is perfectly cast as the man who's coerced into making some awful decisions and loses a lot of his soul as he tries to survive.

Granted, there are some brooding lines throughout - Robert Duvall's old man character says talk of suicide to survive is "foolish to ask for luxuries at times such as this" - but the meditations on who's good and who's bad when everything goes to hell in a handcart will haunt you for hours after you leave.

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