One of the reasons I had to watch this film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book ‘The Road’ is that after seeing The Hughes Brothers ‘The Book of Eli’ a lot of comments were that ‘The Road’ is a much better film which is saying something because in my opinion ‘The Book of Eli’ was a very fine film. After seeing ‘The Road’ the discussion over which one is the better movie is negligible to me because they are, at least in my opinion, two very different movies that just happen to share a similar launching point. Just like ‘Bull Durham’ and ‘Eight Men Out’ are both movies about baseball but different movies all together.
The date and time are unimportant but ‘the flash’ that everybody on the planet Earth dreads has come and gone. We will follow the journey of an unnamed man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they try to survive a world in which the sun apparently has stopped shining, plants and animals have ceased to exist and the majority of the human population is either dead or dying. The boy was born into this current world and knows nothing but this life, even though he doesn’t seem fit for this life he was born into. His father dotes on the boy and only exists to protect the boy and the boy’s mother (Charlize Theron) who we only meet in flashback and who was also ill equipped to deal this life brought upon by this flash. As a side note is their an actress who can look as absolutely beautiful at one moment then look as completely f’d up in the next moment as Charlize Theron? I don’t think so.
As you might imagine the planet Earth at this point in time isn’t the ideal place to be. Or at least the United States since planes, trains and boats aren’t ferrying anyone to Europe, Australia or Africa at the present time. Some estimated ten years into this New World, food is almost completely done since Little Debbie stopped making tasty snack cakes years ago. The only thing left is whatever might be able to be scavenged, and we’re talking whatever, and of course there’s also the cannibalism option. To give a sense of what one would have to deal with in this situation, when the man was in discussions of their limited options with his wife, the wife suggested that they take the route of suicide as many other families before them had taken. Eventually, the wife observed, they will catch her, rape her and eat her just as they would catch, rape and eat her son. Outstanding.
Still the father soldiers on with the boy in tow, encountering some really bad people and some not so bad people even though he always assumes the worst in everyone and is dangerously close to losing his tenuous grip on his humanity. His child on the other hand seems to exist in a completely different reality than the one that we are experiencing.
Directed by John Hillcoat, I personally can’t find anything to say that can detract from what is what I felt was a deep, textured and very satisfying movie experience with ‘The Road’. It’s odd because after seeing Peter Jackson’s ‘Lovely Bones’ I was convinced, and still am convinced that I had just witnessed possibly the most depressing and miserable film I had ever seen. Yet here we are with ‘The Road’ that has a subject matter that is far more nihilistic than what was presented in ‘The Lovely Bones’, the serial killing of little girls versus the destruction of the planet earth, and yet I didn’t leave the theater feeling as defeated about ‘The Road’, as opposed to that other film, which I believe can be attributed to the way each film was presented.
Of course this movie is driven by the stellar performance of Viggo Mortensen who we have been down with since ‘American Yakuza’, and that’s going way back baby, even back before Viggo even learned to act. If less is more then Mortensen gives the viewer a lot to ponder with his tortured character of the unnamed man. Young Smit-McPhee also turns in a fine performance in a movie littered with clever, small somewhat cameo appearances by the likes of Robert Duvall, Michael K. Williams and Guy Pearce.
One of the criticisms I had read concerning this film is that it is ‘slow’ and if you are going to compare it to ‘The Book of Eli’ which was an action movie, then I guess it could be conceived as such but I found ‘The Road’ to be almost wall to wall tension despite the absence of car chases and fist fights.
This movie also forces you to ask the question; ‘What would you do?’ Would you become a cannibal to survive? Faced with what is the inevitable end of the world, knowing that Little Debbie will not be stocking the shelves with tasty snacks and a decent can of SPAM will never again appear… would you simply end your life? Would you soldier forth in an effort to survive or lose your grip on humanity and become a raping baby eater? I’m a pretty good judge of character and you know those people who anonymously say wicked things on the Internet in the safety of their mother basements? Those are your baby rapers right there. Guaranteed.
All kidding aside, even though I’m not even joking about those future baby rapers, ‘The Road’ was a great movie. Bleak perhaps, definitely a tad depressing but oddly hopeful. Unlike Mr. McCarthy’s last book that was made into a movie ‘No County for Old Men’ which was the previous holder of the most depressing movie I had ever seen before I had the displeasure of witnessing ‘Lovely Bones’.