Sunday, December 20, 2009

Movie Review: The Road

Movie Review: The Road
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron
Director: John Hillcoat
Release Date: November 25, 2009
Running Time: 112 mins.
MPAA Rating: R - for some violence, disturbing images and language
Distributor: Dimension Films, The Weinstein Company
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No matter if our dreams continuously get shot down, there has to be some form of light that is consistent. Without having a sense of hope, no matter how delusional or faith oriented it may be, we become savages. The Road, based on the 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy, follows the dreams of two anguished souls, a father and son, as they fight for their survival in a post-apocalyptic America. It is a bleak and systematic tale that produces poignant activity long after the film is over. The picture painted before us by director John Hillcoat, with a script by Joe Penhall, initiates a curious thought amongst us viewers of what has just passed before our eyes and to acknowledge how ambiguous it all truly is. It subdues its power amidst a backdrop of complete desolation. This dominance of despair sets up McCarthy’s religious and philosophical metaphors. Like his No Country for Old Men he reminds us how little we are when pitted against supernatural forces (No Country’s evil or The Road’s unspecified worldly catastrophe). Man always tries to carry the fire and light, it is the least he can do despite towering odds, despite despair. These two tales are elementary especially in their prose style. But the ramifications that each possess are monstrous and remarkably subtle. The father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are fighting against prowling human savages. Eluding them to live another day. Their faces full of soot because of the air being completely filthy. Finding abandoned homes, barren barns, wrecked cars and a philosophical old man (a wonderful Robert Duvall) proves to be small miracles. They help to shelter them from the barren lands. Even these miracles are fleeting because houses may contain plagued occupants, or cars may be infested with human debris. No matter where they turn they see destruction that reminds them of sepulchers and callousness that reminds them that making it to see another day is slight.

Hillcoat’s emphasis on tragic events arranged in a highly radical and ruined tradition is equated to McCarthy’s land of corruption and savagery. This disproportional reality actually benefits Hillcoat. His convention to express the unnatural code of the human condition is sensationalized due to McCarthy’s imagination, which just might have caused other directors to flea. But Hillcoat thrives on weakening the human soul. See his 2006 anti-western The Proposition and watch how he makes soul, virtue and reason insufficient. McCarthy initiated the same thoughts in No Country for Old Men.

Acting as an antidote against this bleakness is a warm and vibrant relationship showing the natural love between a father and son. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee miraculously pull off the minimal dialogue found the novel. This occurs because of Mortensen’s unmatched ability to adapt to his settings. He is a chameleon opposed to one identity. In The Road not only is he a man struggling with savagery while trying to protect his and his child’s life at any cost but also a man of tenderness and vulnerability. His flashbacks of his wife (Charlize Theron) bring him back to a time that will never be again, showing his vulnerability while trying to maintain a killer instinct. And seeing him teach his child how to kill himself if times get any worse is chilling. Even when he is giving his child the feeling of a great discovery, as when he gives him a can of Coca-Cola for the first time, Mortensen’s character is impervious to the trepidations of the larger picture.

Beyond the dystopian backdrop is this tender relationship which exemplifies the necessities of parenting. This relationship appears to be the only thing alive in the entire film. If their love is capable of remaining stable then maybe they can propagate that to form a means of hope: Any hope is better than no hope.

Official [ Movie Site ]

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