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The Road
4 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
John Hillcoat

Written By:
Joe Penhall, Cormac McCarthy

Charlize Theron, Viggo Mortensen, Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall, Garret Dillahunt, Molly Parker, Michael K. Williams, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Brenna Roth, Bob Jennings, Aaron Bernard, Jeremy Ambler, Mark Tierno, Jared Pfennigwerth, Kyle Quinn, Shawn Rolly, Nick Pasqual, David August Lindauer, Jack Erdie, Amy Caroline, Matt Reese, Chris Sechler, Kacey Byrne-Houser, Frederick E. Kowalo, Cerise Weidner

The Road (2009)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
November 28th, 2009

'The Road' is based on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, and I would strongly urge you to read it if you have not already done so. The seminal McCarthy adaptation will continue to be No Country for Old Men, from the Coen brothers, and I am anxious to see what is to be done with Blood Meridian, which is possibly McCarthy's masterpiece.

Director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall have done an admirable job in bringing the work to the big screen, since it was long considered unfilmable, as McCarthy's sublime, lyrical prose conveys far more than mere imagery, or the emotions it conjures. This is a brutal and bleak story, set in a world that has been destroyed by some unnamed calamity, presumably biological in nature, though it is never explained, or even hinted at. A father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) have survived, and are on their way south, towards the ocean, not knowing what awaits them there, but assuming is must be preferable to what currently surrounds them.

The father has sworn to protect the boy; he carries a gun with two bullets in it, one for each of them, should their options run out. They traverse a barren landscape, with deserted highways and vacant towns, empty houses and abandoned cars, and forests filled with people who have resorted to cannibalism, in their efforts to survive. In such desperate and hopeless circumstances, man reverts to his most predatory and bestial instincts, becoming aggressive and tribalistic.

The father, however, refuses to succumb to savagery, and cares only about preserving the life (and innocence) of his child. His own needs are secondary. The movie's paints a chilling and immersive portrait of a cold and desolate world. Despite a well-earned R rating, some things have been toned down, some particularly gruesome segments of the book excised. Beyond that, it is reasonably, though not slavishly faithful to its source, and Penhall has utilized most of McCarthy's original dialogue, what there is of it, as the potent relationship between father and son is demonstrated largely through actions and expressions, rather than verbal exchanges.

Essentially a two-actor show, Viggo Mortensen and his young co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee give outstanding, achingly authentic performances. Mortensen could receive an Oscar nomination, and would deserve it, mainly for his obvious physical dedication to the role, it looks like he lost some weight (I was reminded of what Christian Bale did in The Machinist), and allowed himself a very rugged and disheveled appearance. McPhee maintains a comfortable and convincing chemistry with Mortensen, and displays a surprising maturity. The man remembers his wife, and the kid's mother, played in flashbacks by Charlize Theron; she walked out on them and never returned. Technically astute, though it has minimal special effects, and is confusingly classified as science fiction, and while portions of it reach into that genre, this is, first and foremost, a drama, and a very good one at that.

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