Review: The Road

What I learned from watching The Road: the end of the world sucks.  Cannibals aren’t your friends.  Food is hard to come by.  And this movie is the opposite of 2012 – well acted and a great character study on survival.

From the author of No Country For Old Men, we get a view of the world after it’s already ended.  If 2012 was the cartoon version of the apocalypse, this is the documentary.  Bleak but hopeful.  Desperate but understanding.  There are a lot of layers to this movie that’s basically a road trip from hell.

The man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son are doing the best they can after a catastrophic event ended everything.  Through grim and grit, they head south for the promise of something better…food, blue oceans, something to do.  The tale is also told through flashbacks of why the wife (Charlize Theron) is no longer with them and how they came to the point we meet them at.  Cannibals and cleanliness are the biggest two obstacles as a father teaches his son how to survive this new world they inhabit.

Talk about your “Debbie Downers.”  This movie is dark and gritty with grey skies and ash.  So anyone looking for creamsicles and candy corn is probably going to find themselves disappointed.  This movie is about isolation.  Cast Away…but instead of Tom Hanks and a volleyball on an island, it’s a father, a son and the whole freaking country.  Only with cannibals.  Did I mention cannibals?  Yeah, not everyone is adjusting well to the end of the world and food is scarce so some people do what they have to do.  The tempo swings from quiet moments to sheer terror.

The acting is fantastic.  Viggo has been consistently great in everything and this is no exception.  Charlize doesn’t do much but she’s memorable and impactful in the scenes she’s in.  We get a few nice cameos from Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Molly Parker but it’s the son that really stands out.  Kodi Smit-McPhee should get some serious attention for his performance as a little kid who’s trying to determine the difference between right and wrong in a world where that difference isn’t so clear.
I did mention the cannibals right?

If you are looking for action, this isn’t that movie.  This isn’t a CGI extravaganza with explosions and gunfights.  The apocalypse has even happened already so don’t think you’re waiting for anything.  It’s just a family deal with the challenges in front of them, trying to forget the circumstances that got them there.

THE ROAD Rating:
3 stars – good movie, take a friend. Not the feel good movie of the year but certainly an interesting story, both visually and emotionally, of how the remnants of a family try to survive.  Worth watching, but only go to the theatre if you’re a sucker for the big dark landscapes. Otherwise, rent it.

Coming Attractions:
Brothers (release date: December 4, 2009) – I’m noting this movie for two very different reasons.  The good news, this movie sports three amazing actors in Toby McGuire, Jake Gyllenhaal and the love of my life, Natalie Portman (please see Closer) and on top of that, it looks like a really intense, interesting story.  HOWEVER…there’s always a however…this trailer is terrible.  It’s stunning how manipulative the music is.  Feel turmoil!  WHY? Because we’re playing U2.  Feel intense?  WHY?  Because I’m making repetitive, building loud noises.  See it anyway.  The music thankfully will take a backseat.  I hope.

Randomly Recommended
Eastern Promises (2007) – One of those movies people didn’t pay much attention to but are blown away when they see it.  Intense, sad, smart…and for you ladies, a knife fight in a bathhouse.   It’s a great film about the Russian mob and trying to do the right thing.   And if you look at the movies Viggo Mortensen has done, there aren’t many missteps.

Honourable mention: Hidalgo.

Two Days in the Valley(1996) – Ok, sure.  It’s a bit of a Pulp Fiction rip off.   But only a bit.  This was the first film Charlize Theron’s did (I’m not counting that horror piece of crap) and she didn’t disappoint.  Eric Stoltz, Teri Hatcher (great fight between her and Theron), James “I use to be skinny” Spader and Jeff Daniels.  Solid rental for when you don’t know what to get.  Even just for the Theron/Hatcher fight.

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  1. LOVED Eastern Promises. I was going to recommend it until I saw that someone already had! Thanks for the review of The Road. I think I will look for that one when it comes out on video. P.S. I’m really looking forward to Sherlock Holmes and Alice and Wonderland coming out!

  2. Ah yes. Eastern Promises. Fantastic. I am sure that Viggo will give an equally fantastic performance in this. I’ll do my best to check it out, but when it comes to somber entertainment, I find life often has enough.

  3. Katie/SJ
    Eastern Promises was a great one. As I mentioned, Hidalgo was pretty darn good too. (yes, I said darn). I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland but Avatar and Iron Man 2 are also on the radar.
    SJ – if it’s more depth to your somber you’re looking for, maybe read the book The Road. I haven’t yet but will the moment I get a chance. It’s gotten rave reviews from friends.

  4. The Road is an intense read, parts of it are horrific and having read it I’m not sure I can see the movie.

  5. I’ve heard rave reviews of the book. Some even say it’s their favourite book of all time. High praise. I will say if I can watch the movie, you shouldn’t be too put off. (I’m a wuss)

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