I wanted so much to love this film. After all, it stars two of my favorite actors, Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron. Let me also say that I love science fiction, and especially post-apocalyptic films like The Stand, Planet of the Apes (the original), The Last Man on Earth and its remake (The Omega Man), Road Warrior. etc. But The Road was an altogether different kind of film. The film starts out depressing and keeps getting more and more depressing as the film progresses. There is little to no action, just a lot of dialogue about how bad things are without even a glimmer of any dark comedic moments to “lighten the mood”. So the audience is left with a complete downer of a story, with no hope in sight.
Viggo Mortensen gives another bravura performance, (hopefully he'll get the Oscar this time). Charlize Theron is seen briefly in a cameo as Viggo’s wife. She is completely underused and quite frankly, any decent actress could have played this part. Her character is depressed right from the beginning and is not very likable. When she wonders off into oblivion, without much of an excuse (except that she’s depressed), I say good riddance. Special attention should be paid to newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee who plays Boy. He delivers an honest and heartfelt performance. You’re going to be seeing a lot of this new kid-on-the-block. Robert Duvall also gives a great cameo performance as the Old Man they meet on the road. Again, all the performances are terrific, but it’s not enough to keep the film engrossing.
The direction by John Hillcoat is taught and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Production Design is outstanding thanks to Chris Kennedy, (it doesn’t get any colder or desolate than this). The CGI backdrops of a disaster worn city are terrific. If this is an indication of “things to come”, then be afraid, be very afraid. The script for The Road is written by Joe Penhall and based upon the Pulitzer Prize-winning Novel by Cormac McCarthy. The characters don’t have actual names, they are simply Man, Woman, Old Man, Thief, etc. and of course there’s THE ROAD. The Road is the stretch of highway leading the father and sun to the ocean and hopefully their salvation in a post-apocalyptic world. We never learn what kind of catastrophe has plagued the Earth, and it’s not really important. It’s mainly about the survival of a father and son in a harsh not-to-distant future.
I was really torn when I started to write this review. Generally, when I write about a movie I try to keep it upbeat and positive, whether I like the film or not. In this case unfortunately, I couldn’t really come up with anything positive, except that it is well shot and well acted. The main problem with The Road is that a popular book doesn’t always translate to the screen. There’s too much in formation in the book, and not enough screen time to flesh it all out. We’ve seen this happen before even with great novels from writers like Stephen King. It’s the story that causes the audience to be stranded on The Road along with the characters, not the film itself.
Without trying to give anything away, I also found some major flaws with some of the plot points as well. When the father and son come across a barn with an entire family that has hung themselves to keep from getting killed or worse, eaten by cannibalistic survivors, all we see are their feet hanging into frame. The problem is, we can see that the family is wearing shoes that look like they’ve hardly been worn. And it’s already established that Viggo’s character is wearing make-shift shoes that look like they are about to fall off his feet any second. Wouldn’t he swap shoes with the dead father? Or is he too proud? I thought to myself, you’re kidding right? (The film takes place in the middle of Winter by the way).
They then come across an empty farmhouse where in the middle of the dining room there is a literal pile of empty boots and shoes. Viggo’s character doesn’t even react to this fact. Again, they are supposed to be scavenger/survivors aren’t they? The movie is really about the relationship between a father and his son which is very touching. But all the chemistry between the two isn’t enough to keep the Road on the path from destruction. I kept asking myself why was this film made? It didn’t make a statement. It didn’t have a message, well I guess it did, (keep the fire alive) meaning never give up hope. But for some reason, this didn’t quite to resonate with me.
I walked out of the screening scratching my head and feeling like I got hit by a Mack truck. Viggo’s character carries a gun with only two bullets left in case they need to use it on themselves if they get attacked by the gang of bad guys. After the screening I was tempted to you use one of the bullets on myself. Special Note: You might want to think twice about taking a first date to this one. A + for performance and production value. C + for entertainment value and believability.