Equal parts post-apocalyptic horror and arthouse drama, John Hillcoat’s much-delayed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is as unrelentingly grim and grueling as anyone who’s read the book might expect.
But it’s also undeniably moving, a heartbreaking story of parental love and the ends to which a father will go for his son.
In an America devastated by an unexplained catastrophe, a Man (Viggo Mortensen) and his ten-year-old Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trudge along its scorched highways, foraging for food, all the while heading south, towards the sea.
Every day is battle for survival, an endless, repetitive slog through barren, blackened terrain, in fear of the marauding gangs of gun-totting cannibals that trawl the very same roads on the lookout for someone to eat.
Joe Penhall’s spare, tense script is largely faithful to the source material, save a few too many flashbacks to the Man and his pregnant Wife (Charlize Theron) in both their pre-catastrophe life and after, when, despondent and scared, she advises suicide as their only option.
The film’s vision of a dying world, a ruined land of charred, skeletal trees, perpetual rain, raging firestorms and drab, grey skies choked with smoke, devoid of animals, colour and hope, is a thing of chilling, desolate beauty.
But this is Mortensen’s movie make no mistake. Physically gaunt and spiritually haunted, his raw, convincing portrayal of an anguished man driven on by his undying love for his son anchors what is ultimately a harrowing but powerfully affecting film.
Next: Tetsuo: The Bullet Man