DVD Review: The Road

The Road

Dimension Films

Released in 2009

Director: John Hillcoat

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi McPhee, Robert Duvall and Charlize Theron

As the movie opens, a father (Mortensen) and his son (Smit-McPhee) walk south through a post-apocalyptic landscape. An unspecified event has destroyed all plant and animal life and produced clouds of ash that hide the sun. The land is bleak and barren as the pair navigates their way through gangs of cannibals and thieves carrying only a pistol with two bullets for protection. As they travel, the father begins to lose his compassion to paranoia and his son must force him to help an old man and a starving thief. They don’t know if they will find a happy ending at the conclusion of their journey, but they keep moving in the hope they will find some pocket of civilization still standing.

The Road is based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. The cinematography is delightfully gray and bleak helping to firmly set the mood of a depressing post-apocalyptic world. The theme of this movie centers on blurring the lines between who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. After his father’s death from a persistent cough, the son is faced with the choice of joining with a family of strangers, or carrying on the torch of his father’s paranoia and trying to survive alone.

Other than the pleasing visuals and the satisfying tying of threads at the ending, this movie had a plethora of irritating events. For example:

The father and son don’t leave their home until perhaps ten years after the unspecified civilization ending event. The mother, saying she can no longer stand the thought that gangs may come to rape and kill them, walks out into the cold night as a means of committing suicide. There is no imminent danger. It seems she is making it more likely she will encounter the things she fears by taking this rash action. Little thought is given to the son she is leaving behind. As a mother, I don’t buy it. Unless she is suffering some ten-year long post-partum psychosis, which is no way indicated in the movie, these actions are not consistent with maternal instinct. Why isn’t she protecting her son? The role of the mother was vastly expanded in the film as opposed to in McCarthy’s book and probably would have been best left the way it was originally written.

Another example:

As we see the father and son on the road, they walk out in the open, down the middle of roads, strut unabashedly in front doors, sleep in abandoned cars, and light nightly blazing fires. These actions made me cringe, even shout at the screen, “Why are you being so stupid? Don’t you know anything about stealth? Survival?” They walk right into houses that looked blatantly and recently lived in, then are surprised when they encounter cannibals. Um, duh?

It seems every time the pair encounter danger, the boy whimpers, whines, cries out, basically does all the things you shouldn’t do when your survival depends on your silence. If I were raising a child in a post-apocalyptic world, I’d be a drill sergeant. Basic training time, baby! And he’d know how to shut his mouth so we didn’t get killed.

Yet another example:

They find a bomb shelter. It is full of food and water. Enough to last years and years. The shelter locks from the inside. So what do they do? Hunker down and enjoy their good fortune? No. They leave when they hear a dog sniffing around. Okay, I’ll concede that the intention was likely to show the father’s paranoia, but really? Really?

I have more beefs with this movie but my face is turning red and I’m giving myself a headache, so I’ll wrap up by saying this movie is a C+ at best.

1 comment to DVD Review: The Road

  • I loved the book, the eerie setting and themes, not to mention McCarthy’s great prose. At least now, I don’t feel like I have been missing out by not seeing the film yet.