A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Carrying the fire for the good guys in THE ROAD

In drama on November 30, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Cormac McCarthy is not known for his happy, smiley fun time stories. And the adaptation for his Pulitzer Prize winning book THE ROAD, lives up to the premise and tone that the book set. It’s bleak, post-apocalyptic setting, utilizing the wrecked landscapes of post-Katrina New Orleans, volcano-ravaged Mt. Saint Helens in Washington state, and dilapidated areas of western Pennsylvania, works fantastically in surrounding our main characters in this story, of a man and his child as they head south to the coast. Their time is spent looking for food and shelter, discussing the different ways to commit suicide and how long it takes to die from starvation. The minimal cast is lead by Viggo Mortensen, as the unnamed father; and his son, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who spend the movie covered in grime, blood and eating bugs. They dodge other people, either because they could be thieves or cannibals; the man has to keep the son from wanting to follow or keep dogs, other children and even old men, played by Robert Duvall.

There is something about tragic and dreary, yet somehow hopeful stories, that really appeals to me. Whether it’s the end of PLANET OF THE APES – where after discovering that Heston has been on a far-future Earth all along, and yet has started a new phase of humanity by riding off into the Forbidden Zone (even if this actually happens in reverse-order than I listed it); or the challenging CHILDREN OF MEN, where we go through hell and back, only to be rewarded with the death of almost all of the main characters and then the hopeful, yet not completely concrete ending of a mysterious boat and the sounds of children. And this is where THE ROAD fits, it spends most of it’s two hours leading us toward the inevitable demise of these characters. Whether it’s at the hands of “bad guys” – either just from the brutality of being a survivor, or to later be used for food. But, at the end of the movie, there is a shred of hope. Not that the world will go back to how it was, or even someplace safer; but that at least our main characters might survive just a while longer, and there’s a possibility of there being more “good guys” out there than Viggo’s character would believe.

The fact that the movie isn’t actually as touching or thought-provoking as CHILDREN OF MEN, or even the book version of THE ROAD, is really the only main thing that I feel detracts from the movie. And that’s why this review isn’t that long, because I just don’t really have much to say about it, other than it is something that I think people should see; and it will affect you, but only until you leave the theater, or are distracted by something else.

If you want a really tragic, and touching story, check out the director – John Hillcoat’s previous endeavor, THE PROPOSITION, an Australian-set western, about a family of murderers and the lawman that is trying to capture them. It’s got a taste of McCarthy’s sensibilities, but has an underlying message that I think helps to elevate it a little above what THE ROAD was missing.


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