The Road (2009)
The Road (2009)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: November 25th, 2009 MPAA Rating: R

Director: John Hillcoat Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Molly Parker, Charlize Theron

 


 

I

ncredibly bleak, “The Road” proffers the tough questions of existence in a nearly hopeless world. Why continue living when there’s nothing left to live for? In John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, audiences are witness to the trials and tribulations of a father and son who see only death and despair before them, yet still determine to pursue an almost invisible trace of optimism. The degree of misery and desperation (and the deliberate pacing) will likely cause some to abandon their connection with the anguished travelers, but those who don’t will behold one of the more impressive displays of solemn storytelling and superb acting seen this year.

The world has all but died, leaving only cold winds and grey skies to look down upon the crumbling ruins of a desolate landscape. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) wander the road alone, hoping to reach the coast and possible salvation. The threats of starvation, freezing, and death at the hands of cannibalistic gangs always loom forebodingly on the horizon.

“Bleak” doesn’t even begin to describe the level of dejection the trekkers observe and endure. With thoughts of suicide always lingering, the man and the boy are continually subjected to the sights of burning fields, dilapidated buildings, hanging bodies, and cannibalized corpses. Death and despondency engulf every withered creature they encounter, while fragmented dreams reveal a beauty that has long since been lost. As the world rapidly decays around them, the father and son refuse to let their hope pass with it, clinging to disheartened narration and fleeting memories of Charlize Theron (who plays the unnamed mother of the boy). That just might cut it for some.

While the unparalleled gloom is more extreme than any film of recent memory, many of the ideas have been used not long ago. Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” employs a father and son combo in a frantic fight for survival against terrifying creatures and mob mentality; “The Road Warrior” lends inspiration for the fuel-hungry traveling cannibal gangs (which also helped flesh out “Doomsday”); “I Am Legend” previously captured the dread of total seclusion; and even “Zombieland” demonstrates detachment and natural selection. “The Road’s” identity comes from the dreariest, most abrasive combination of all the horror elements of a dog-eat-dog environment, topped with spectacular cinematography and sympathetic characters. Ultimately, the grim outlook of total aloneness and slow starvation, which is often scarier than dark basements and bloody corpses (and the discovery of food as an uncommonly joyous activity), begs the question, “What would you do?” Many potential viewers won’t want to contemplate the dismal scenarios.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10