Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quick Cut Review - "The Road (2009)"

Directed by:  John Hillcoat
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce
Rated: R  
Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes  
Release Date: November 25, 2009

Director John Hillcoat's film adaptation of the novel The Road written by acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy is a film filled with immense hopelessness and despair. It's depiction of a world rotting away after a mysterious cataclysmic event is of a bleak and often extremely disturbing nature. There is little to no hope in its desolate wasteland filled with fractured memories of a way of  a life that seems almost like a distant dream. This nightmarish world will test your limits on how much you are willing to take before simply succumbing to its harsh and bitter reality.

There really is no way to sugarcoat this post-apocalyptic world. It is a place where suicide is not just something the crazy and lonely contemplate, but those with families and loved ones as well. It will have you asking yourself if it is worth living long enough for a hike down the road for another hundred miles where you risk being captured, raped and/or eaten? With food in short supply and no sign of any sort of vegetation or wildlife along the high mountain roads, it's safe to say that living in this world is the true hell and death by any means is the only safe option left.

Watching The Road, its difficult to know exactly how to feel about what you are seeing. Undoubtedly there will be an overbearing sense of dread that overtakes the viewer, but as you watch this man (Viggo Mortensen) and his pre-teen son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) attempt to make a cross country trip down this seemingly endlessly barren road, you don't know if you should be happy for their safety and the fact that they are still alive, or simply pity them for the many hardships they must endure to stay safe and alive.

Most of the film's dread is derived from Mortensen's powerfulperformance as this desperate and whithered father figure. Looking very reminiscent of a holocaust survivor, he can barely hold a gun up and has to struggle to even pull its trigger. He is at the same time both a very pathetic figure and a very brave one. His struggles are made even more difficult by being the sole protector of his son, a circumstance he finds himself in after his wife (Charlize Theron) makes a decision to go on her own selfish journey that leaves her family in this hellish world all alone.

The bulk of the film is made up of nothing more than this father and son making their way down some random road and running into all different sorts of atrocities. As they come across different houses and other survivors along their long journey (along with plenty of cannibals), you start to realize that perhaps suicide really is the only viable option. That this world is so far gone and its remaining population broken to the point of insanity, living in it is more of a purgatory than anything death may offer.

This is a powerfully grim experience that is as gripping as it is exhausting. Its ability to make you question your natural survival instincts and ponder the possibility of ending it all if ever faced with such an unimaginable and horrific landscape as this is unprecedented. This is the first film to ever truly capture the horror of a world destroyed and how that world subsequently destroys the human spirit and our need to survive. Heed this warning, this film will break you.


How do you recommend something that makes you feel so ugly inside? This is a well crafted and acted film, but those facts will likely be lost by all but the most hardened viewers. turn off nearly everyone who attempts to see it. This is a film of impeccable power and impeccable sorrow. Watch it and prepare to be broken by its power.


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