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The Road (2009)

In a moment the world changed forever.

Directed by:

John Hillcoat

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

Contrary to popular opinion, the end of the world is not fun, and John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, certainly hammers this point across. I am a big fan of the book and am pleased that the grim everyday reality of the book is depicted admirably here. When the main characters carry around two bullets to do themselves in when it all gets too much, you know you’re in for a chuckle.

The Road takes place in a time after a catastrophic event has killed off most of humanity and a handful of people are left to roam a dying world looking for the next mouthful. Some turn to cannibalism, many kill themselves and the rest just try to live from day to day. The Road follows a father and son, known only as Man (Mortensen) and Boy (Smit-McPhee), as they tramp through an environment of destruction avoiding armed gangs of cannibals and nasty men. The present tale is punctuated by flashbacks of their deceased Mother and Wife (Theron) and her descent into depression.

Whereas most apocalyptic thrillers are all about the stylised destruction of the world or use vast sections of the film explaining the new world order and then give us some half-baked adventure yarn, The Road cuts out the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ and staunchly focuses on a powerful character driven narrative about great hardship and the of the power of the human spirit. This feels like the most possible post-apocalyptic future yet depicted on screen. There are no gangs of circus freaks riding around on suped-up motorbikes or weird tribal communities, instead there is the grim reality of dirt, suspicion and danger. The Road is so beautifully made. The impressive sweeping scenes of destruction are not indulgently dwelled upon in a self-congratulatory manner rather they are used infrequently to illustrate the new world’s desolation and their movement South towards warmer climates.

Viggo Mortensen and young Kodi Smit-McPhee are brilliant and really bring an authentic onscreen chemistry and dedication to their characters. Also, a big mention has to go to Mortensen’s Oscar-worthy beard – bravo, sir. The Road’s only slight faults are that the bravely pedestrian pace, at times, borders on dawdling and some scenes could have been cut. Also, the cheesily upbeat ending seems to be slightly out of tone with the rest of the film.

It's Got: Two great performances, grimness, a great beard.

Alternatives:

I Am Legend, Mad Max, No Country For Old Men

Summary

The Road is the finest post-Apocalyptic epic in a long time thanks to some excellent character development, haunting landscapes and an understated eeriness. What’s more, it’s a scenario that seems unnervingly possible.

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One Comment

  1. Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I liked the fact that it was a post-apocalyptic movie that didn’t show us the apocalypse. It was about the struggle to retain humanity and the struggle to find meaning in a meaningless world. I really enjoyed it. The flashbacks and voiceover took me out of the story a bit, but I really liked it overall.

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