The Road (2009) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Road (2009)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTThis is an incredibly difficult movie to evaluate.  The Road is a nearly pitch perfect adaptation of the book by Cormac McCarthy.  This is both one of the greatest gifts of the film but also serves as its greatest weakness.  By the time that The Road has run its course we have been subject to so much bleak gray landscapes that the strengths of the material slowly fades away into the distant drone of the apocalypse.

We join as a father and son, unnamed in the movie as in the book, are scavenging the landscape, looking for ways to survive after some unnamed apocalyptic event.  It’s not particularly difficult to guess what happened between signs of radiation poisoning and the slowly disintegrating landscape.  So they are traveling south, avoiding marauding bands of scavengers, formerly sane people turned cannibal, and other desperate folks looking to survive.  The father hopes that the remaining healthy and sane people will be gathering around the coastline to build a new life.

That’s the entire plot, if you’re looking for grand sweeping characters and arcs of change you will not find that with this movie.  There’s no hope for this world and there’s very little to suggest that conditions are ever going to improve.  We’re treated to perfectly composed shot of fields turned to ash, trees disintegrating and falling over into the ground, and houses that are becoming monuments to a species that has run its.  There’s very little sign of any kind of life, plant or animal, which is going to survive.

This brings me to the ultimate question of why The Road was adapted into a film.  It’s magnificently shot by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, and director John Hillcoat has a fine eye for the apocalypse.  The acting is even better and Viggo Motensen commands the screen as the embodiment of what life clings to the planet.  But the son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his wife (Charlize Theron, only seen in flashback) have very little to do and mostly act helpless and suicidal (respectively) in the full scope of the story.

But all of this is just putting off the fact that there is no real reason to see the film.  Part of the joy that comes with reading the book is the endless descriptions of a world that seems consumed by the Old Testament God.  But the film has no way of translating this, and as a result just ends up a limp, lifeless film that contains none of the joy of cinema.

Every color on the screen is some variation on a shade of gray.  This makes the bit of color that does sink in, like when father and son find some canned food in a shelter, stand out that much more against the landscape.  By the end, once they’ve reached the shore, the slightest hint of green seeps into the landscape but not enough to overcome the overwhelming bleakness.

What it translates to is an endurance test for audiences without a real purpose in mind.  Viggo acts beautifully, but to no real end.  The compositions are amazing, but are so overwhelming bleak that the two hours feel like it drags on for double the allotted run time.  Even the score, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, does little to help with the dragging experience.

The Road is a pitch perfect example of an empty exercise.  There’s little to recommend but a lot to praise.  So what are we left with?  We have a lot of gray landscapes, a great performance and nothing much else.

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The Road (2009)

Directed by John Hillcoat.
Written by Joe Penhall.
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee and CHarlize Theron.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was
    extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any points for first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

    • Honestly, the best advice I can give is write, write, write, and find something that works for you. I’ve been writing for this website almost two and a half years now and there are still things I’m learning. Heck, even looking back at this article there are things I’m not as happy about (I wish I expanded on why a film about the slow death of all life felt aimless) and things I am happy about (emphasizing how the pitch of the film is great even if the results are not great.)

  2. Perfectly put. You are a good critic.

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