I loved the novel of The Road and also thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's other novel No Country For Old Men [Blu-ray] , so I couldn't wait to see this one. It stars Viggo Mortensen as "The Man" who has survived the apocalypse and is now taking care of his young son and trying to keep them both alive, struggling against exhaustion, starvation and cannibals. I knew from reading the book that this wouldn't be a happy film, in fact you couldn't get much further from it. That doesn't stop it from being an exciting and heartbreaking film exploring man's will to survive and the love that he has for his son.
The film is beautifully shot, being partly filmed in post-Katrina New Orleans (as well as Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Oregon, I believe), the scenery is bleak, cold and depressing and most importantly authentically destroyed land, but is equally breathtaking and extremely atmospheric. Acting from Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee is very believable and their bond together did feel genuine to me and mirrored the characters of the novel perfectly. The story is just about survival a coping with the end of the world, basically - nothing more, nothing less. I particularly liked how you never really know why the whole of the human race has been wiped out, so that part of the story is left completely up to you to decide or guess.
The Road is a very haunting and quite powerful film that is very faithful to the novel, but didn't quite make the impact that the book did as it is always harder to feel what the characters do in a movie as opposed to using your own imagination when reading their emotions in a well written piece of literature. This is no fault of the film though, so don't let that put you off. I definitely rate this highly and will most certainly purchase it on Blu Ray or DVD when it is released.
on 6 October 2010
Throughout The Road, we're given brief flashbacks of what life was like immediately after the unspecified disaster that rendered the world a wasteland, but cleverly, we're never told exactly what it was. All we know is that there was fire, disturbing clouds of thundering smoke pouring up off hillsides in clouds so vast they take up the entire horizon, and that dust and ash seems to still be raining from the sky many years later. It's a decision that defines the rest of the film as well, as the easy option is never taken in the way the story is told. In Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron's emotional scenes between their characters 'the Man' and 'Woman', everything is underplayed which only enhances the gravity of the terrible situation they're going through. Nobody has the energy for melodramatics in this starving, thirsty, destroyed world. But they still feel everything.
The bulk of the movie is purely 'The Man' and his son 'Boy' played by Kodi Smit-McPhee travelling, trying to walk to their destination and find water and food along the way. This is harder than it sounds as all of the water is polluted (there's clearly not enough spare to wash, as all the characters are filthy throughout), the crops and animals have all died, and raiders scour the landscape in violent groups, looking to capture and eat the unwary. They feel more real in this film than in many others, desperate 'survivalist' type men and women in rag-tag groups with beaten up vehicles and whatever weapons are still working, who view killing and eating other people as little more than a distasteful version of cattle-herding for survival. Other humans are a constant source of fear and mistrust throughout the film and this is very effectively conveyed.
As the film is largely a three-hander (the Man and Boy for the majority, with flashbacks to The Man and Woman for several scenes as well), it helps that the performances are so good. Mortensen feels like a very tired but practical man trying to remain good in a terrible world. Smit-McPhee feels every bit the confused, playful, distracted child that he plays, occasionally heartbreakingly vulnerable and small in the face of terrifying violence. The casting of the two actors is excellent, and as a result they're always convincing. Theron is sterling in a hard role as the frightened, bitter, hopeless Woman.
The design of the ruined world is consistently flawless - you always feel like they may be on a losing mission to survive, such is the sheer devastation and grime around them.
There are a couple of nice surprises along the way, and some joyfully human touches - mainly in the ways the characters react to other people. There are also some moments of serious tension. One set piece where they stumble into the wrong house is nerve shredding in its terrifying possibilities and the sustained tension and fear of being two normal people trapped in a house that's suddenly full of the enemy. Director John Hillcoat squeezes every last drip of tension out of it.
This is mostly a drama of hope, loss, survival and fear, and it's handled excellently. It's also peppered with cameos from famous actors playing characters so dirty and messed up it's hard to recognise them, including Robert Duvall and Guy Pierce.
It's emotionally challenging and hard viewing - I wouldn't bother watching it for a lad's night in or a date movie - but certainly well worth seeing.
on 23 September 2015
I read the book and wanted to watch the film adaptation after reading so many good reviews of it, I was no disappointed. The emotion is full on and the acting of Viggo Mortenson is amazing as ever - he takes the role to heart and whilst watching it you feel what his character feels just by the look in his eye. Magical film - as magical as the book on its first read.
The Road is directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition) and written by Joe Penhall (Enduring Love). Based on the 2006 novel of the same name by American author Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men), the film stars Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a father and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
How do you sell such a sombre piece to the film loving public? I'm not sure I personally can, such is the whirly like emotions dominating my thoughts. OK, it's a grim and bleak film, of that there's no doubt. Director Hillcoat is not out to make a thrilling end of the world actioner. Staying faithful to McCarthy's novel, this is now a world where animal & plant life is practically extinct, where this particular part of America is lawless and populated by cannibal types. Humanity has long since left the arena. How we arrived at such desolation is not clear; intentionally so. We are now just witnessing the after effects of something world changing, the fall out involving us as we hit the road with man & boy.
Hillcoat and his cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe have painted a clinically dead world from which to tell the story. Scorched soil is home to threadbare trees, the skyline punctured by the wreckage of man's progress passed, storms come and go as if to taunt the characters. It's a living hell that begs the question on why would anyone want to survive in it? So here's the thing that finally hit me like a sledgehammer some five days after watching the film, it's not just the bleakness of the apocalypse that gnaws away at you, it's also the expertly portrayed study of parenting. So emotively played by Mortensen, with Smit-McPhee essaying incredible vulnerability, it sinks the heart the longer the movie goes on. All of which is leading up to the ending, where we get something absorbing, revealing and utterly smart.
Tough viewing for sure, but compelling and thought provoking throughout. 8/10
on 2 September 2015
This has to be one of the saddest movies I have ever watched, great acting and a true depiction of the brutality of humanity. It portrays the lengths one has to go through to survive in the hardest conditions and the value of love and strength.
on 16 February 2010
The post-apocalypse world has been represented on film too many times to count but few of them have been as well realised or as bleak as the latest offering from John Hillcoat. Adapted from the book by Cormac McCarthy, this is as brilliant a movie as I have seen in a long time.
A man (Viggo Mortenson) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are travelling the road of the title, trying to get to the coast whilst at the same time struggling to survive in a world that has been rendered a wasteland by an unnamed and largely unseen apocalypse. Foraging in order to get enough food to simply survive from day to day, whilst at the same time trying to avoid contact with some of the more undesirable elements who travel the road and have resorted to some despicable actions in order to survive, the man and the boy inch ever closer to their goal as the film unfolds in front of our eyes.
And what a film it is, with director John Hillcoat having fashioned a deep and involving movie about what it is to be human from a very simple core. Utilising some amazing cinematography to render the ruined earth a startlingly believable place, the film moves along at the leisurely pace of a gentle walk, shot through with occasional moments of fear and genuine horror as the man and the boy struggle to remain the "good guys", whilst at the same time having to deal with the baser actions of this barren worlds more depraved inhabitants who will do anything in order to survive.
The story at the centre of the film is the story of the man and the boy, never given names throughout the film, and their struggle to maintain their humanity when all around them appear to be loosing theirs. The man has made it his mission to protect the boy, keeping him safe from anyone who would harm him, which in the man's fevered imaginings means anyone they encounter. However, it is the boy, never having known any world other than this ruined one he now moves through (having been born in the immediate aftermath of the apocalypse, the years that the man and the boy have been together are dealt with in brief flashbacks and the understanding that they have of each other speaks volumes for the time they have spent together) who is the real hope for the future, representing everything that is still good with humanity, wanting to help those he meets rather than fleeing in terror from them, and it is this overriding desire that will hopefully proves humanities salvation.
This is a shockingly bleak film, unrelentingly grim in almost every scene that still manages to contain a positive if not exactly upbeat message about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity, but you really have to look hard for it, but trust me its there.
on 8 April 2011
First i would just like to comment on all the 1 star ratings claiming the movie is slow, nothing happens, and that they do not reveal enough background. THATS THE WHOLE POINT!!!. If they'd ever read the book by Cormac MrCarthy they would realise it was of a minimalist thought provoking temprement and in order to be inkeeping with the same themes, the film had to follow suit. This is not the kind of movie for Rambo fans. Rant over.
Ok, down to the review. The acting is amazing and i have been well and truly won over by Mr Mortensen but the real star performance comes from the 'boy'. Both main characters are portrayed beautifully, and as for the set peices and back ground imagery, well they are amazing. But a word of WARNING! This could well be THE most depressing movie you will ever see. DO NOT watch late at night. DO NOT WATCH alone. and i would strongly recommend immediately following it with a dose of The Lion King or Finding Nemo.
on 16 April 2010
I wanted to watch this film from the moment I heard about it, but didn't manage to watch it in the cinema. Then one day my partner bought me the book and I read it in one day, loving it from the first page to the last.
When I eventually watched the movie I was a bit disappointed. Although the film packs an emotional punch, it didn't capture the horror of the situation. Some parts were a little jumpy/scary - and certainly the film is very bleak like the book - but there are moments in the book where I had to put it down and pause until the horror and brutality so succinctly described had left me. This is what was missing.
However, it's a good film ad definitely worth watching.
on 14 July 2010
this really is an excelent movie. the colour renderings used in the cgi do actually give a really good enhancement of the depressed nature of the film. VM is one of the best acctors around and dosn't dissapoint in this one. herein lies the problem...... it is so well done that i watched the movie and felt like an anagram of carp afterward. it was so good that i saw it again with my partner when she watched it, but i dont think i ever want to view it again. i wish i had rented it. it is similar to the movie spider with ralph fienes, whereby you go away wanting to watch somthing else afterward to regain a bit of feel good. there is a difference between a sad vibe and a depressed vibe. this would fall into the latter.
Having watched people walk out of a cinema during the middle of this film announcing loudly that it was "depressing crap" one can testify that "The Road" has generated some strong feelings. Quite why anyone who had read Cormac McCarthy's uber powerful post apocalyptic dystopia would expect a "feelgood" movie is slightly beyond me but the disaffected punters views were also reflected by some critics with the Daily Mail describing "The Road" as "drab, virtually plot-free and aridly pointless". Thankfully I knew that if this was the Daily Mail verdict then a fine piece of cinema awaited. What I didn't expect was a film of such poignancy and what amounts to one of the greatest portrayals of the love between a father and son that it is possible to capture on film.
The film world is littered with great travesties when it comes to film adaption's of great books. For every epic like "Schindler's List" there are execrable messes like "Captain Corelli's Mandolin". We should therefore congratulate the producers of the Road who have largely stayed true to the book. Producer John Hillcoat adaption is unflinching, often very harrowing but ultimately an elevating experience. This is film about a painfully extended apocalypse, one of dirt, grime, brittle forests and jaundiced brown skies. A father and son, who are never named, head for the coast in this bible black charred landscape away from a mother for whom the slow and painful death of the planet is too much to deal with. Charlize Theron plays the part well in slightly extended role than set out in the book. The main protagonists are the father played with enormous care and subtlety by Viggo Mortensen and in a performance of real charm and vulnerability by Kodi Smit-McPhee as the boy. The two live hand to mouth often starving and with the sole protection of a handgun and a couple of bullets and belongings rattling in a supermarket trolley. Along the way they encounter cannibals, gangs and one of the most remarkable cameo performances in movie history by that giant of the cinema Robert Duvall. You can barely make out those wizened features under the dirt and grime of his tramps clothes but his 3 minutes in the film are a wonder.
Do not expect humour, wiz bang effects or a cast of thousands. The films core is the relationship between the father and son and the formers desire to protect him, feed him, love him and kill him if need be. The scene when a can of Coca Cola is found should be produced as a guide to parenting.
The film is by no means perfect and you will see the missteps. It offers no morality tale other the world is full of people who choose goodness as a guiding principle when all evidence around you suggests the contrary. The excellent film blog "Little White Lies" captures this in words that I have not been able to articulate when it states that "Stooped beneath a burden of profound sadness, The Road is a tragic requiem for the death of civilisation. It is a post-apocalyptic road trip through a world of taunting memories. It demands that we face the question of what we would do if it was us, and answer it with brutal honesty".
You come out of the film wanting a shower you feel that grubby and soiled but you also know that this is a film whose memory will not fade quickly or be washed away. The Road will certainly not be to everyone's taste and the negative stars will probably equal the positives on this review. Indeed it doesn't quite match the flawless quality of the book. But as a piece of filmmaking it cannot be faulted since it is a work of raw, austere and haunting power.