Reviews

The Road

3

No country for a middle-aged man (and his boy)…

The Road Review

Voiceover, parched: “The clocks stopped at 1.17”. The why and the when – month, year – don’t matter.

Nuclear war? Environmental catastrophe? Punishment from above (“If there’s a God up there, he’d have turned his back on us by now…”)? All we know for sure is that humankind has brought this upon itself, sometime, somehow.

Travelling south are two stick figures. Man (Viggo Mortensen) has scabs for eyes, his ancient face comprised of razor-ridges and plunging hollows. Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is begrimed and fretful, reeking of terror.

They are father and son, huddling, clutching, eking their way across a grey and desolate landscape: stunted trees, deserted flyovers, glowering clouds, soot-stained rain, slanted power pylons, hunkered, rust-coated trucks and a sloughed ship. Their goal is the ocean. Survival will do.

With stock stacked high after 2007’s The Proposition, director John Hillcoat here shoulders Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a work that echoes his apoco-western in Old Testament heft. It’s therefore no surprise that Hillcoat’s take is committed and bold and cruel to the eye, from the tines of Mortensen’s ribs to the emptiness of the skies.

The soundscape comprises tense, terse dialogue (Man: “They committed suicide.” Boy: “Why?” Man: “You know why.”), a plaintive piano refrain, not much else. Yet for all their integrity, Hillcoat’s ash-and-slime visuals are unable to harness the weight, the ruggedness, the pain and poetry of McCarthy’s spare, eloquent prose.

It’s a tough ask, certainly, but one made tougher by the director opting to break up the grim action with lucent, too-frequent flashbacks of Man’s wife, played by Charlize Theron. And with the timeframe lacking clarity (weeks? months?), the protagonists’ journey is robbed of its persistence and pitilessness.

All of which means The Road, though adult and intelligent and fashioned by a filmmaker of consequence, stands as a good film of a great book. Shame.

Verdict:

Isolation, desolation and the odd skirmish: this is Hillcoat’s apocalypse, not Hollywood’s, but it lacks McCarthy’s power.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • HamishRowe

      Jan 8th 2010, 23:26

      1

      This film is perfect. Until the credits. What? Why? Who? When? How? Apparently the answers to these are frivilous and as the film draws to a meandering end (although you would have to have read the book to realise this) you are left feeling like a juvenile for questioning the whole purpose of what you just watched. Phenomenal acting, superb cinematography and an epic concept are left pointlessy clinging on to a storyline that struggles to define a beginning, middle and end. A gift to the indifferent, this meagre attempt to capture our imaginations leaves plenty to be desired. Money back please.

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    • fattyblunt99

      Jan 11th 2010, 14:21

      5

      An extremely moving film. I have yet to read the book but what i have heard from others is the film does not quite capture the brilliance of the book. That being said this film is one of the most movinf films i have ever seen and is unfortunately being overlooked by both critics and movie-goers. It's so much better than all the b******t at the cinema e.g. 2012 and st trinians 2. Viggo deserves an Oscar for his great performance.

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    • elainen

      Jan 19th 2010, 17:33

      5

      The book blew me away and the fim did too. Very true to the spirit of the novel. Yes, OK, the remorselessness and tedium of the everyday fight for survival isn't represented as well and it does seem to move from one episode to another but this is a movie - would you have watched that? I disagree about the re-visiting of the past with the wife/mother - I felt that that was judged just about right and the the temptation to use Charlize Theron more was avoided. The whole story is ultimately about the man and his son - the unconditional love that keeps him going despite all the odds. And no CGI! Wonderful film making. Fantastic performances. Brutal and beautiful.

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    • endaoconnor

      Jan 20th 2010, 10:57

      5

      I thought it captured the bleakness and desperation brilliantly, a fantastic film.

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    • beck79

      Jan 28th 2010, 13:25

      3

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    • KVSmiley

      Feb 3rd 2010, 10:41

      5

      One of the best films ever. The more I think about it, the better it gets. An instant classic !

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    • maxthomas

      Mar 14th 2010, 21:56

      3

      The Road , A book which promised so much, and the majority was delivered. The story was destined to be headed for the big screen, the movie had everything, lots of raw emotion, upsetting scenes of cannabalism (very well delivered within the context of the movie). I gave the movie 3 stars, no movie can really give justice to the book, the book enables your imagination to picture the setting of the film, the movie has done that for you and dissapointed in some dull moments, the overall view of the film was very good, however to somebody who has read the book may not give it a second watch. Scenes as gripping as the tense moment when Mortensen swims to the ship and leaves the child on his own , only to remedy the situation later and leave the movie watcher gripped to his every moment in this scene. A good watch, but not a must see MT

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    • Igrayne

      Sep 1st 2010, 22:40

      5

      Again Total Film talk utter nonsense, a masterpiece ten times better than the awful 2012 or Book of Eli, will become a classic quickly.

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      5

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    • glegs

      Apr 3rd 2011, 3:35

      4

      A truly excellent movie that is only slightly by the fact it adds hopeful music when in the book at no point is there proper hope, it is depressing and bleak the whole way through. The movie did not really capture the way the child sees death, which is one of the most important and moving aspects of the book, and also the bit with the baby on the spit-roast was left out of the movie, perhaps because it might offend, but I think it is a vital part in the story, showing the horror the world has turned in to. But still a very good movie that goes into areas that most movies these days avoid.

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