Directed by: John Hillcoat
Premise: An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel. In a post-apocalyptic future, a man guides his son through the ruins of civilization in hope of finding a safe place.
What Works: The Road is an excellent and distinct apocalypse film. The picture upholds the look and style of many films like it such as Children of Men and The Road Warrior but the film does not get bogged down in heroics. Instead, The Road plays nearly as a metatext of apocalypse cinema as the film addresses a major theme of the genre: redefining heroism and what it means to be civilized. Many of these kinds of films get bogged down in the reasons or process of the apocalypse but The Road never actually gives a reason or shows us what happened, only hinting at some kind of calamity in flashback. It may be natural, it may be man made, or it may be supernatural; the answer is never provided and is ultimately unnecessary. The Road’s omission of a reason makes it a stronger film because the focus is not on the details of why but on the characters within that environment and how they carry on afterward. The performances of The Road are really tremendous and Viggo Mortensen largely carries the film on his shoulders as the father trying to protect his son and teach him the ways of the world. The film is ultimately about the bond between a parent and his child, and the apocalyptic story of The Road is really about something very integral to that bond: a parent’s wish that they will leave their child skilled enough to go enough to go off into the world and survive.
What Doesn’t: The Road is not an action-oriented picture like a lot of apocalypse stories. This is not to the film’s detriment but it is unlikely to appeal to the video game crowd.
Bottom Line: The Road is an excellent film, part experimental art house film and part Hollywood adventure. The picture is very dense and its imagery is packed with symbolic meaning. This is risky and challenging cinema but in the end the journey is worthwhile.
Episode: #272 (January 10, 2010)