The Road (2009)

Adventure, Drama
Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall
A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.
The Road's commitment to Cormac McCarthy's dark vision may prove too unyielding for some, but the film benefits from hauntingly powerful performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi McPhee.
  • The Weinstein Co./Dimension Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 02 Dec 2009 Released:
  • 25 May 2010 DVD Release:
  • $8.0M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Agonizingly desperate and sad8/10
While watching this movie I thought to myself that it was good I had already read the book. This was because the movie is agonizingly desperate and sad--often times it was just too much to absorb or handle in such a large dose. You can't put this movie down like you can with the book. Unlike the book being beautifully written, in an almost poetic prose, which distracted the reader from the subject, the movie is not beautifully shot. In your face is desperation, agony, and death.

I can understand why this movie was shelved for a year. Do not go into it looking to be entertained, at best look to be intellectually stimulated. This is no popcorn movie.
Faithful adaptation that still offers something new7/10
Just got back from seeing THE ROAD.

I had been very impressed by the novel and was concerned about how it would be adapted. The tone of the novel is almost unremittingly bleak and a 100% faithful adaptation would be very difficult to watch.

I'm happy to report that the film is very good indeed. It solves the problem of being unendurably depressing by concentrating on the emotional impact of the unspecified Armageddon, rather than the day to day fight for food, shelter and so on. So while at times it remains very upsetting it is shot through with hope rather than despair. I always felt the end of the novel was somewhat out of kilter with the rest of it but in the film it seems quite appropriate.

I think the film is more about the collapse of civility rather than civilization: for a film that shows the last remnants of mankind struggling to eke out an existence it is remarkably concerned with relationships. That's probably why the exact cause of the catastrophe is left blank: the film isn't really about the end of the world so much as the end of society. It's an interesting companion piece to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in which an ageing man sees nothing but horror in the modern world. In THE ROAD a man convinces himself, for the sake of his son, that humanity will abide even in the face of appalling conditions.
Depressing and pointless (which I suppose is the point, but)1/10
When my husband and I went to see this movie, we chose it purely because a) it wasn't one of the ridiculous movies already out, and b) it got a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. At the snack counter, a poster proclaimed, "One of the most uplifting and optimistic movies of the year!"

After watching that movie, we concluded that the poster reviewer either was completely high, wandered into the wrong theater by mistake, or thinks that Schindler's List was a wacky comedy. The Road has to be one of the most depressing, pointless, excruciating movies you could ever see. It will make you want to go home and stick your head in the oven.

The first 7 hours of the movie contain an endless slog through a desolate landscape bereft of plant and animal life. Only bugs and humans remain, somehow. Everything else on Earth has been burnt or smashed by some unacknowledged Doomsday Event. The director leaves it up to the audience to somehow figure out what kind of reasonable scientific explanation could account for anyone surviving for any amount of time after all the oxygen-producing plant life plus everything else in the food chain between bugs and people bit the dust. Apparently it happens through the magic of Dole Pineapple Chunks, the search for which takes up another 4 hours of movie.

Once you get inured to this laugh riot, you eventually start to disassociate from the main characters. The Boy in the book is supposed to be 6 or 7. In the movie, though, he looks to be about 10 or 11, but seems to still act 6 or 7. He comes across as a total feeb and you start to wonder how a kid born on the cusp of a complete apocalypse manages to have such poor coping skills. The Kid was supposed to have been running into dead bodies and cannibals practically every day of his life so you'd think he'd be over it after 9-10 years, but no, he manages to seem traumatized at every instance.

Dad doesn't help things out much as he spends his days talking to the kid like he's three and tucking him in and carrying him around every chance he gets. I'm sure that'll help grow hair on his chest, Dad! It's nice to see that no matter how shitty the world gets, there's always a parent willing to overshelter their kid from the reality of their situation.

Dad also seems to make poor survival decisions. The poorest decision comes when the two find a friggin' BOMB SHELTER FILLED WITH FOOD AND WARM BEDS, but after a couple days they need to abandon it because they heard somebody walking around up top. Apparently this is the only bomb shelter in existence that didn't come with a lock on the hatch, and everyone knows how easy it is for a starving bum to breach a cement bunker with a steel trap door on it. It's much easier to pile a bunch of crap in an old push wagon and hit the road again to defend it in the open air against every marauder and sneak thief that walks by, while you slowly die from exposure.

But one can't point fingers at such glaring plot holes, because This Is Such A Serious, Award-Winning Oscar Contender! You can tell this movie is an Oscar contender because the kid cries real tears and there are at least a couple scenes where the audience gets treated to a rear view of Viggo's naked ass and nutsack. Everyone knows that if Viggo is letting you see his junk, he's very much into his role and you should respect his process by taking his nuts very seriously like he does.

There's a scene somewhere in the middle where The Mom (Charlize Theron) decides to end it by walking out into the freezing winter in her sleep shirt to die in the woods, because she can't take it anymore. By the end of the movie, you'll be wishing you'd walked out in the middle too.

There was one very uplifting part to our experience, though: After leaving the theater, my husband found a five dollar bill on the ground. That cheered us up immensely. There is life after this movie!
"You must think I'm from another world."9/10
The wonderful thing about the Road is that it will more than likely please the two camps: the one that has not read Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer prize-winning book, and the one that has. There's the nervous feeling one gets when watching the theatrical trailer, though - will it be this super action-packed spectacle, will those images that open the trailer with "THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR!" stick around, and will Charlize Theron actually be in the movie that much? As it turns out, if you liked the book very much and worried about how its uber-bleak and incredibly dark and (especially) gray landscapes would appear, it provides that perfectly. And if you haven't read the book... it still works as a movie, as a simple-but-not story of a father and son survival drama- and clinging on to their humanity- first, and then a post-apocalypse thriller far second.

To describe the plot is not impossible but sort of unnecessary. All you need to know going in (if you're part of not-read-book camp) is that a father and son, after becoming on their own after the mother of the house exits, are traveling together across a true post-apocalypse landscape to a coast. We never are given a fully clear explanation as to why or how the apocalypse happened. This is more than fine; because John Hillcoat's film centers on the father and son (called in the credits simply Father and Son, played by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee), there doesn't need to be anything really specific. At least this will be fine for most people who may be by now tired of the usual viral or religious or (damn) 2012-type explanations. We're given hints though, to be sure, that there may have been mutations or some kind of earth-bound phenomenon (earthquakes happen a couple of times), and past this we, like the travelers, are left to our own devices.

How it happened isn't as fascinating and visually compelling, anyway, than how it looks. The Road provides us many scenes and vistas that are precisely grim and desolate and terrible. Some of these are full of visual details like big city-scape shots, and others, like when the Father and Son are on the ramp of a highway, is intimate and hard (this setting also provides one of the most touching moments as Mortensen's character finally 'lets go' of two important details from the deceased mother of his son). And other times Hillcoat lets us just take in the gray-ness of everything, just as one could take in the sight of masses of flies in his film the Proposition. It's against this backdrop of rain and sludge and grime and decay that imbues this intense bond between the father and son so greatly, and the complexity that comes with not just staying alive but retaining humanity and dignity and doing right and wrong by the people they encounter.

This may not be news to people who read the book. I still, having read it two years ago (which sadly seems like long ago in usually remembering specific images of a book), can't get the descriptions of scenes out of my head, or the stark manner of how characters talked and dread and existential horror was relayed. But, again, the film not only respects this but gives it further life. Dialog scenes in the movie- save for a couple of the flashback scenes with Charlize Theron's Mother character- are never obtrusive to the storytelling, which is a rightful concern to have with an adaptation of the book. And, more importantly, the acting and chemistry between the two leads is incredible. Mortensen is a given to be an actor embedded in his character, so much so that when he takes off his shirt we see his bony torso as being really that, and watching him is magnetic. Yet it's also crucial to see how good the kid Smit-McPhee is too, especially when it comes time for scenes where the boy has to deal with his father's growing desperation or the electrifying showdown with a thief.

To be sure, a couple of walk-on roles by Guy Pearce as another fellow traveler and especially Robert Duvall as a "90 year old man" as his character says provide some needed space, and Hillcoat has a couple of very wise flashback/dream bits with The Man and his wife (namely a very small, brilliant moment at a piano), but it's the all on the two main character to lead the film, and it's on them that it delivers so strongly. As long as you know that this is a film centered not on big action sequences (though there are a couple), and not on big special effects (though there's that too), and it's more akin to a life-or-death-and-what-else story not unlike Grave of the Fireflies, you'll know what you're getting with the Road.

It is very depressing on the whole, and not exactly what I would recommend as a 'first-date' movie - unless you're so hot for Mortensen and/or Cormac McCarthy you don't care either way. However, it's *good* depressing, and equally the best adaptation of the book possible while a tremendous, original vision for the casual movie-goer.
A Miserable Journey Displayed Beautifully9/10
With a surplus of post-apocalyptic/disaster flicks present in today's film circle, the Road does what very few films in any genre seem capable of doing. Here is a picture that in it's own discreteness captures the realism of a holocaust horror, combining the absolute worst possible future with the most profoundly beautiful human characteristics that keep the main characters persevering. Not only does the story accurately exhibit the polar opposite aspects of a post apocalyptic existence, but the cinematography used during the flashbacks of a life full of color and hope many take for granted, is excellently positioned with the dark, dismal, and often terrifying reality that is the Road. The score was also fantastic and perfectly appropriate for the film.

The only two, minor issues I had were the sound editing, (MINOR!) and the ending which was NOT at all a disappointment, but I felt it was quite open, without giving anything away. This is, again, a minor issue, for the story in itself was a journey, and we see only a small portion of the great, tragic, and ultimately fulfilling struggle.

And, though I'm sure no more attention is necessary, the acting as a whole was phenomenal. Each film since LOTR Viggo has greatly improved and I'd like to think of this as the beginning of his finest hour. Very few performances touch me emotionally, and his was certainly one of them, in three scenes in particular which were, being discrete, (the parting flashback, the dinner, and the climax.) Well done, the Road, thank you Mr. Mortenson.