Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Road (2010)


Plot Summary: A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.

The new Cormac McCarthy adaptation, after No Country For Old Men (great) and All The Pretty Horses (not so great), has had a bumpy road to cinema screens. The Road was originally meant to be released towards the end of 2008 but, as is becoming all too common for The Weinstein Company, it didn’t see the light of day until November 2009. During this period of time the usual delayed-film-fears began to settle in as seen with many similar releases before it. Thankfully, as the final film illustrates, these fears were proven to be entirely weightless. The Road, although not for everyone, is an extremely realistic and dark portrayal of a bleak post-apocalyptic world and the lengths a man will go to in order to protect his son.

The post-apocalyptic world that ‘Father’ and ‘Boy’ (neither are named throughout, a perfect illustration of their disenchanted existence and depiction of a society in which names are no longer needed) inhabit is beautifully captured visually throughout the film. The CGI assisted sets look more than convincing, as breathtakingly dilapidated and desolate urban images dominate The Road. The cinematography follows suit, drenching the screen in an oppressive grey spectrum of hopelessness. Likewise the make-up and costume department do a fantastic job of making the characters look like they’re living everyday as their last with a near-unrecognisable appearance by Robert Duvall and Viggo Mortensen literally looking as if he’s about to starve to death throughout. All these elements, along with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s suitable dark and eerie soundtrack, create a grimly realistic atmosphere which may turn some viewers off, but will press all the right buttons for others.

Accordingly the film moves at a slow pace, any ‘action’ scenes are far and few between and often scenes depict nothing more than father and son looking for food or shelter and walking down motorways in silence. This is not to say that the film is devoid of any narrative substance as several suspenseful and harsh scenes (such as the horrifying discovery of malnourished people being stored in a basement by a group of cannibals) most certainly make their mark. Contrasting these scenes are flashbacks to the time before things changed (the film doesn’t explain what caused the apocalypse, leaving the audience to decide) which add real emotional depth to the proceedings and shed light on our main characters plight.

Furthermore, not a single actor turns in a bad performance. Mortensen brilliantly portrays a broken, obsessively protective father who is not always likeable but whose actions are thoroughly understandable. Charlize Theron is pitch-perfect as the mother who has lost all hope and even Kodi Smit-McPhee is believable (if not a little trying at times) as their fragile son. If The Road has one drawback, it is that the film may be too restrained for its own good. For all its atmospheric achievements perhaps the film could have benefited from a stronger narrative thread or threat as I felt slightly unsatisfied with the amount of drama present. Regardless, The Road is highly recommended to anyone who appreciates a slower film and can stomach an examination into the darker side of humanity and its potential for cruelty.

Final Verdict: 8/10

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