Theatrical Review: The Road

When I wrote a review for 2012, I made mention of the fact that while it’s special effects were spectacular, there just seemed to be a little something odd that it’s escape-by-the-seat-of your-pants popcorn movie thrill-ride was being viewed as entertainment considering that it’s backdrop was hundreds of thousands of people meeting their certain death…

Well, think of The Road as the story of people who weren’t lucky enough to get to go on that roller coaster.

It’s actually much, much more than that, but that was something that certainly popped into my head after watching it.

The Road from director John Hillcoat adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy tells the story of a father and son trying to survive after a global cataclysm has occurred and it takes the harder and darker path in it’s tale of survival while still trying to maintain their humanity. There’s no explanation for what has occurred and there’s no government team that’s seen as the path of salvation, it’s probably way closer to what you and I would actually face if such things were to really occur.

And it’s a really great little film with a very good performance from it’s lead actor, Viggo Mortenson. But, even though I had criticisms with 2012 one thing that it surely offered up was conversation afterwards of what you’d really do in something like this, and The Road does that as well.

It’s extremely dark stuff, though and that’s certainly not the thing for some in the potential viewing audience out there. There is a subtle message of hope here by the film’s end, but you literally have to go through hell and high water to get there.

Viggo Mortenson plays the father, never called anything other than “Poppa” by his young son. I’ve often said in conversations with some friends that Tom Hanks is the closest thing that we have to a James Stewart today in films, well with that in mind, the more and more that I see of Viggo Mortenson, the more that I’m convinced that he’s the closest to what we have now that’s like Kirk Douglas in his prime. This is really a thoughtful performance from Mortenson, another good mark from him in an ever-increasing amount of good roles that he’s taken on. Kodi Smit-McPhee is the young actor who plays his son, and he’s certainly up to the task of keeping pace with Mortenson, and there is a great chemistry between the two that’s a very natural thing between a father and son. At one point, Poppa says to his son, “You must think I’m from another world.” and the moment he said that, I couldn’t help but think of my own relationship with my father. In addition, Charlize Theron plays the wife and mother, seen only in flashbacks, and there’s some nice walk-ons by both Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce- it’s all good and solid work, with Theron getting the best of it as a mother who’s delivered after the apocalypse has happened and who struggles with the idea of trying to survive with her husband and son during this.

It’s really a terrific movie, but it’s by no means a feel-good movie. It’s very bleak and very dark and from what I understand, very true to it’s source, so if you don’t want to see something this dark, then you probably shouldn’t, but for me, I think it’s right up there with The Hurt Locker as one of the better things that I’ve seen this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Viggo Mortenson get an Oscar nomination for this, his performance is certainly worth it. Without a doubt, highly, highly recommended.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

28. November 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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