After waiting for over a year and watching the movie trades for a release date, the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s”The Road” finally hit the big screens a week or so ago. Except it didn’t. Well…it DID…but no theater in my immediate area was carrying it. So I had to hunt it down. So on a trip to Jacksonville, I had to drive to Orlando (2 hours down, 2 hours back) to see it. And, I’m happy to say, the movie is every bit as bleak as the book.
If you like happy endings. If you are one of those people who likes kitties and hearts and smiley faces…you do NOT want to see this film. Family entertainment this is not. But what this movie CAN do for you is give you a peek of what can happen to human nature in a devastated world. What man can and will do to survive when faced with extinction. It’s not a pretty picture…at all. And director, John Hillcoat, does an excellent job of providing a stellar cast with amazing locations to get the job done.
First off…I loved the McCarthy book. It’s not an easy read and to follow it required much concentration on my part. So, in the same manner, the film adaptation isn’t easy to watch either. There are scenes where the father (played by an excellent Viggo Mortenson) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are simply walking and looking for food. In a post-apocolyptical world, there stands to reason that there would be little else to do besides finding food, keeping warm and seeking shelter. But within these scenes, there are feelings of dread. Constantly the characters find themselves facing life & death confrontations from cannabilistic scavengers or other stragglers who want to take their food & clothing. It’s an ongoing possibility that at any given point, either of the characters might die. And that possibility (even if you HAVE read the book) will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the movie.
Secondly, the locations and backdrops for each scene of this film are remarkable. Complete devastation with ash and falling trees everywhere. I was taken into a completely destroyed world where there were no chirping birds or barking dogs or cars or trains. There was only wind blowing, rain falling and the sound of trees crashing to the ground. It is my opinion that the only way this movie could have been any better is if there had been no soundtrack accompanying it. Not that it’s invasive in any way, but the gloom of the film would have been enhanced if it had been dead silent in moments when the score is playing with the scene. But the set pieces are possibly the greatest post-apocolyptical backdrops of any movie of this genre and the grey tones and deadened hue really sets this movie in a place all by itself.
Although I mentioned the stars of the film, there are also performances by a couple of great actors which surprised me. Charlize Theron plays the wife & mother of the main characters. She is only shown in flashbacks and, in the book, I don’t recall there being a mention of her really at all. But in order to give some emotional attachment, her character was given a larger role…and she nailed it. And a surprise appearance by Robert Duval (practically unrecognizable under all the dirt and facial hair) is a highlight in the movie.
So will “The Road” be a force when Oscar time rolls around? I will say probably not. Not because it’s not deserving, but because it is, in most accounts, one of the most harrowing and unnerving films to be released in many years. There really isn’t much hope in this world that McCarthy has created. Only a prolonged and agonizing fight to live and fear of never finding peace. It’s not a happy picture and in this holiday season, very few will probably even see it. Possibly that is why it’s in limited release. However I can say that it was worth the 6 total hours that I took to see it. It is a truly remarkable adaptation and well worth the time if you are one who enjoys this sort of moviemaking. But trust me…the theme of the film and some of the graphic images are stark and violent. And those usually don’t add up to Oscar wins. But in MY mind…this film could stand to win quite a few.
Overall Rating: A